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Letters to the Secretary of State on the Subject of 

[First publiahed in the Columbia Republican, in the fall of 1853.] 

(No. 1.) 

7b tht Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State elects of 
the State of JVew York. 

A great ehauge has occurred in the political affairs of the 
State, which, from its magnitude, might well cause amazement, 
had it not been frequently paralleled in previous portions of its 

This, sir, is a great State, rich in natural resources, and abound- 
ing in every element of prosperity and wealth. Its inhabitants 
feel this instinctively, and they desire that their rulers and higher 
officers should so direct their affairs as to develope this latent 
affluence in the highest degree. Again and again have they been 
seduced by high sounding professions of zeal for the public wel- 
fare to elevate different political parties to power, in the hope 
that they would seriously devote themselves to preparing and 
perfecting measures which should increase the guarantees of in- 
dividual freedom, and swell the measure of public prosperity. 
You know, sir, how often they have been disappointed in these 
anticipations. You, who understand the history of our State so 
well, are aware how few have been the measures, comprehensive 
in their scope, noble in their aim, and beneficial in their results, 
which have been devised by our statesmen. Their time and 
their talents have too frequently been devoted to the perpetua- 
tion of their own power, to increasing their own emoluments, and 
to the distribution of the public patronage to their own friends 
and political adherents. 

Is it wonderful that the people, thus betrayed and insulted^ 

should oscillate frequently in political affairs? Is it not natural 
[Senate, No. 72.] 5 

66 [Senate 

that they should be indignant when their interests are neglected, 
and their wishes are contemptuously opposed by their public ser- 
vants ? The present State government assumed the management 
of affairs with the loudest professions of integrity, and of zeal for 
the public service, but no single pledge has been redeemed, no 
single promise has been fulfilled. The management of our ca- 
nals was never so expensive, and never so inefficient. Our State 
Prisons have deteriorated in discipline, security and revenue. 
The finances of the State are seriously dilapidated, and, in a 
word, all the functions of government are badly performed. 

The people, knowing these things, have decreed that our party 
should have another trial. You have been borne into power by 
a mighty wave of public indignation, swelled up by the selfish- 
ness, the incompetency, and the profligacy of our adversaries. 
If you dedicate all your admitted powers and energies with 
singleness — if you resolutely exclude those miserable harpies who 
infest the perlieus of the capital and the public offices, in hopes 
of plunder from your councils — " if ail the ends you aim at 
are your country's" — you may rest assured of along lease of power, 
and a long career of honorable effort If on the contrary, you 
confine yourself to mere party aims, forgetful of the lofty objects 
of public importance which solicit your attention, your public 
career will be a short one. The refluent wave, which will bear 
you back to the depths ot obscurity will be far mightier than that 
which elevated you to power. 

I trust and believe, sir, that your own good heart will dictate 
to you, more powerfully than even the exigencies of party neces- 
sity, or the demands of personal ambition, to aim at the inaugu- 
ration of a new era in politics, and give us a glimpse of that " good 
time" which we have been told so long is " coming That our 
code of procedure will be completed with wisdom and judgment, 
and its crudities and anomalies thoroughly purged away : That 
our canals will be finished speedily and economically as they 
w^ould be if they were controlled by sagacious and experienced 
individuals for their own benefit : That our system of criminal 
law will be revised and made to conform more nearly to the re- 
quirements of enlightened political science : That energetic mea- 

No. 72.] 


sures will be adopted for the accumulation and diffusion of agri- 
cultural knowledge : That our State prisons will be purged of all 
under keepers, guards and other officials, whose characters are 
more debased than those of the prisoners over whom they are 
placed : That pauperism in all its relations be thoroughly inves- 
tigated : That such of our existing laws as are found to be useless 
or injurious will be altered or repealed, and that such new pro- 
visions as may be required will be promptly inserted in the sta- 
tute book. 

This is a sweeping programme, sir, but the state of things 
amongst us, and, if I am not egregiously mistaken, the will of the 
people J imperiously require that these reforms should be accomp- 

I am aware that you cannot accomplish them alone, the Consti- 
tution confers no legislative power on you. But you can do much 
if you cannot do all. As a member of the Canal Board you can 
do much to stem the tide of corruption which infests that depart- 
ment; as an ex- officio Regent of the University, you may effect 
great things for the increase and diffusion of agricultural know- 
ledge, and as charged by existing laws to report annually on 
crime and pauperism, you will be enabled to present these 
questions to the Legislature in a manner which will readily ensure 
the assent of that body. i 

Truly yours, FRANKLIN. 

( No. 2. ) 

To Elias W. Leavejsworth, Secretary of State electj of the State 
of JSCew-York: 

In my last letter I called your attention to several reforms 
which I believe to be imperatively demanded by the people of 
this State. It is not my intention in this series of letters to dis- 
cuss all these questions, although at some future time I may feel 
called upon to do so. At present I shall limit myself to an ex- 
amination of the subject of pauperis?a and the suggestions of such 
amendments and alterations as I think ought to be made in our 
.existing laws for the care and support of the poor. 



It is a broad and comprehensive subject, sir! It is not to be 
mastered in a moment, or disposed of in a day. If you would 
fathom its breadth and depth, you must wade through masses of 
facts and statistics which would cause a mere fancy statesman to 
stand aghast. You must look with your own eyes on the masses 
of the poor in our larger cities— you must behold the filth, the 
disease, the nakedness, the squalor, the mental and moral cor- 
ruption aggregated there. You must learn for yourself, the size 
of the army of children who are growing up amongst us with the 
seeds of disease in their bodies, and the still fouler leprosy of guilt 
festering deeply in their souls. I know these sights are appalling; 
that it is no holiday task to survey them, yet I hope you will not 
shrink from the undertaking, because it will enable you to use 
your oflicial station far more effectually for the amelioration of 
these evils than if the source of your knowledge was only heresay. 
You will recollect the saying of the man to the woman of Sama- 
ria : " Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have 
heard him ourselves.^^ These Samaritans were like other human 
beings, and knowledge acquired through the medium of their own 
senses was far more operative on their actions than that which 
they obtained through the testimony of others. 

If however, you are unable from the want of time or opportu- 
nity to enter upon an original and personal investigation of this 
great question, let me entreat you to give a careful and heedful 
attention to the facts and suggestions which it is my purpose to 
lay before you. There may be little enough of talent in these 
letters, but I assure you that I have not been niggardly of time in 
acquiring the information that I shall lay before you, and I think 
I may say, you may safely rely upon the accuracy of every state- 
ment I may make. 

Perhaps you will ask me why I do not seek some other channel 
through which this reform may be accomplished. I will answer 
this question before I enter directly on the subject of pauperism. 
The only other ways that occur to me are, 1st, to enter the Legis- 
lature myself, or 2d, to interest the members of the Legislature by 
personal solicitation, or 3d, to awake public attention through 
public meetings called for the purpose, or 4th, by frequent publi- 

No. 72.] 


lications in newspapers published in different sections of the 

I am cfuite too humble an individual ever to be thought of for 
a seat in the Legislature, and this settles the first mode of proce- 
dure. For the second you well know that members of the Legis- 
lature are divisible into two classes: Those who are incompetent 
to understand these questions, and those who are competent. No 
one knows better than yourself that the first of these classes is 
greatly in the majority in these latter days. The class of compe- 
tent legislators may in their turn be subdivided into two, viz: 
Those who will trouble themselves with no questions which will 
not enure to their own personal advantage, or redound to their 
own personal glory. I could expect no help from this class 3 
nothing they could do in this way would help tliem to a reelection 
or elevate them to a higher office, or put money in their purses. 
The other class consists of workers who are already overburdened 
with labor. You were of this class when you were in the Assem- 
bly. You will recollect what a long string of acts for the county 
of Onondaga and the city of Syracuse, and the inhabitants thereof 
you procured the passage of, and in order to procure votes for 
those bills you were obliged to do the legislative work of those mem- 
bers who were no more able to do it for themselves than the desks 
they dozed over. You would hardly have thanked me if I had 
urged you to undertake the management of a bill which would 
require the undivided attention of several able members to insure 
its. passage. 

It would require a popular orator of name and fame, to draw 
together numerous audiences, before whom these statements could 
be made with a hope to interest them to activity in the work of 
Poor Law Reform. But I am eo popular orator nor could I se- 
cure the services of such, hence T should only fail if I attempted this 
mode of procedure. It I were to abuse the whig party roundly, 
and rake up all their sins of omission and commission, I should 
expect my letters would receive the most extensive publicity thro' 
the democratic press. Or if I performed a similar kind office for 
the democrats no doubt the whig press would not prevent my 
charges from being sustained^ but as I only recite — 

The fibort and simple aunal? of the Poor, " 



I do not suppose either whigs or democrats will trouble them- 
selves with what I write. I liave therefore no resource but to ap- 
peal to you. 


( No. 3. ) 

To Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State elect, of the State 
of JYew- York ; 

You may ask me why I do not address these letters privately 
through the post-office, rather than through the medium of the 
press. My answer is that I have tried this method before, and 
found it quite useless. One of your predecessors acknowledged 
the receipt of my letters, and politely expressed his intention to 
examine the whole matter with care, after which he would devise 
a remedy for the evils complained of. This was the last of it ; he 
probably never thought of the matter again, after writing the let- 
ter of acknowledgment. Some of his friends wanted places as 
lock-tenders or collectors on the canals, or they desired to secure 
some fat contract. Negotiations for these would pay in the solid 
currency of votes, both in conventions and at the polls ; labors 
for the poor would only leave as a reward the consciousness of 
doing good. How could he be expected to work for such poor 

Another predecessor received my letters, but did not conde- 
scend to notice them in any way. This was better, because he 
broke no promise ; but it convinced me that I must take another 
method if I would secure the co operation of those in power. I 
have chosen this method, therefore, that the people may be aware 
that the great evils of pauperism have been brought distinctly to 
your notice. I really believe, sir, that you will esteem it a plea- 
sure, as well as a duty, to exert all the influence of your official t 
station in favor of poor law reform; but if I am unfortunately 
mistaken in this, I wish to deprive you of the excuse for negli- 
gence or indifference, that your attention has never been called to 
the subject, and that you were not aware how bad our condition 
really was. 

No. 72.] 71 

If you prove, as I trust you will, efficient in remedying the evils 
of our poor laws, I am not without hopes that the publication of 
these letters will, in some degree, assist your laudable endeavors, 
by awakening and informing the public mind j so that you may 
find public opinion in your favor when you shall be pleased to 
bring the subject to the attention of the Legislature. 

These, sir, are my reasons for addressing you through the press, 
and having now written all that I designed to say by way of pre- 
face, I proceed at once to the main subject of these letters: 

First — Pauperism is rabidly increasing in the State of JS'^ew- 
Vork ! 

You will scarcely believe that this proposition is true, if you 
travel on any of our great thoroughfares — the Central, the Erie, 
or the Northern railroads, lake Erie, Ontario, or Champlain, and, 
above all, on the Hudson river — your eyes are greeted and glad- 
dened with evidences of wealth, " which far outshine the wealth 
of Ormus or of Lud." Splendid mansions are rising in every direc- 
tion, the grounds are richly embellished, villages are formed on 
the corn-fields of yesterday, and the village of yesterday is the 
city of to-day. You see no paupers — all are genteelly diessed^ 
our shipping has doubled, and the stream of California gold flows 
in upon us with a tide that knows no ebb. Looking complacently 
at all these signs of almost fabulous prosperity, you will not believe 
that the plague-spot of pauperism is within us, eating into our 
very vitals, and spreading, day by day, with fearful rapidity. Yet 
nothing is more true. You will very soon be inducted into the 
Secretary's Office in the State Hall. Seated in the comfortable 
arm chair provided for your accommodation, you may reach, with- 
out risins: from it, the records which will demonstrate the truth of 
the assertion, beyond reach of all controversy or cavil. These 
records show that, in the year 1831, the total number of persons 
relieved and supported at the public cost in the State of New- 
York, was 15,564 ; in the year 1841, the number was 61,203 ; in 
1851, the number was 125,473; and, in 1852, it amounted to 

j Senate 

These facts speak for themselves, and speak loudly, too ; but 
you will not understand their full significance without contem- 
plating them from different points of view, and in relation with 
different objects. Niagara is one and indivisible — it never chan- 
ges ; yet he who looks at it solely from Goat Island, carries away 
with him a widely different idea of its appearance from him who 
has seen It only from Table Rock. Let us try to avoid all one- 
sided views, and endeavor to comprehend these startling facts in 
their totality. The numerical increase of paupers during the ten 
years between 1831 and 1841, was 463639; or, in other words, 
pauperism had increased 293 per cent., or in still other words, 
there were nearly four paupers in 1841 where there was only one 
in 1831. The numerical increase ot paupers from 1841 to 1851, 
was 64,270, or 105 per cent. There were two paupers in 1851 
where there was only one in 1841. If we compare the number of 
persons relieved and supported in 1851, directly with those re- 
lieved and supported in 1831, we shall see that during that period 
of twenty years, the numerical increase was 109,909. The in- 
crease per cent was 706 ; or, rather, more thaa eight paupers in 
1851 for one in 1831. 

The population of the State in 1831 was l,918,6085|in 1841, it 
was 2,428,921 ; in 1851, it was 3,097,394. The numerical in- 
crease of the population for the ten years between 1831 and 1841 
was 510,313. The increase per cent was 26 ; or there were 1-26 
persons in 1841, for 1 in 1831. The numerical increase of the 
population for the ten years between 1841 and 1851 was 668,473. 
The increase per cent 27 ; or there were 1-27 persons in 1851, for 
1 in 1841. 

If we compare the population of 1851 directly with the popu- 
lation of 1831, we find during that period of twenty years the nu- 
merical increase is 1,178,786. The increase per cent is 61 5 or, 
there were 1-61 persons in 1851 for 1 in 1831. 

1 leave you to consider these astounding revelations of the offi- 
cial records during the ensuing week, and remain 

Yours truly, 


No. 72.J 

( No. 4. ) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leaven woktu, Secretary of State^ elect of the 
State of Mew- York: 

I showed you in my last letter, that while the population of the 
State increased only 61 per cent during the twenty years between 
1831 and 1851 , pauperism increased 706 per cent during the same 
period. This gives us a pretty clear idea of the rapidity with 
which pauperism is spreading amongst us, yet as our notions can- 
not be too precise or comprehensive, let us give the kaleidoscope 
another turn, and see if the same glass beads will not give us 
another image. Since the population of the State in 1831 was 
1,918,608, and the number of persons relieved or supported 
during that year was 15,564, it follows that for every pauper in 
that year there were 123 non-paupers; or we may say that the 
burthen of supporting each pauper in the State was divided 
among 123 individuals. In 1841 the burthen was so far increased 
that there were only 39 persons to support each pauper, and in 
1851 every 24 persons in the State were compelled to support one 

I think, sir, we have gained something by this turn of the 
kaleidoscope. It seems to me that you, and I, and the public 
in general, will get a more vivid idea of the insidious activity of 
this social malady from this point of view than irom any other- 
Keep the fact carefully in your memory, sir, that in 1831 there 
was one pauper to every one hundred and twenty- three inhabitants, 
while in 1«51 there was one pauper to every twenty four inhabi- 
tants. Have you considered, that if pauperism increases as rapid- 
ly during the next twenty years as it has during the last twenty, 
there will be in 1871 one to evevyfive inhabitants'? If you have 
not, let me intreat you by all that is christian, all that is patriotic, 
and all that is philanthropic in you, to ponder it thoroughly now. 
Apply the most approved principles of political arithmetic to the 
solution of the problem, and tell us, if such should be the condi- 
tion of things in 1871, what effect will it have on the condition of 
the country 1 If one person in every five is a pauper, will uni- 
versal suffrage be safe ! Will not the concentration of wealth 

74 ^ [Senate 

which such a condition of things will produce lead naturally and 
necessarily to the establishment of an order of JS^Ulityl If an 
order of Nobility is established will they rest long without an 
Emperor or a King ? If I read the Roman history rightly, the 
spirit of liberty declined as pauperism increased. Wealth, there, 
was more unequally divided ; the rich became richer, and the 
poor poorer. The poor Roman was too happy to enrol himself 
among the retinue of the wealtJiy patrician, for then bread would 
be given him, and his water would be sure. But then, the main- 
tenance of the Republic became impossible, and the establishment 
of the Empire was an inevitable necessity. You, sir are a states- 
man, and can better answer these questions than I can ; yet it 
does seem to my poor understanding, that if like causes produce 
like effects, something like the sequence of events which occurred 
in Rome, will follow here. 

While your hand is in will you be kind enough to solve a few 
more problems growing out of the same subject. What will be 
the efl'ect of this increase of pauperism on our common schools ? 
W' hen wealth is confined to the very topmost branches of the na- 
tional tree, while the roots and the trunk are steeped in poverty, 
and the inferior branches are contented with the most meagre 
gleanings of the vintage, will the wealthy contribute to the sup- 
port of schools for the poor? Will they not deem them more fit- 
ting tools without education than with it ? How will our churches 
be affected ? Will not many a graceful spire which now rises 
lieavenward crumble into decay ? What influence will it exer- 
-cise on internal improvements ? Can a nation of lazaroni con- 
struct railroads and dig canals ? What will become of our com- 
merce ? Do paupers build ships or fill them 1 Let Spain and 
Portugal and Naples answer. 

You will perceive, sir, that I have only calleti your attention 
to such aspects of the question as a mere statesman would take. 
I am not afraid, however, that you will forget there is a christian, 
and a philanthropic side, which are of equal, if not superior inter- 
est. The individual pain and suffering and privation caused by 
poverty cannot be forgotten by any one possessed of the ordinary 
feelings of humanity ; nor can the most painful tendency of ex- 

No- 72.] 75 

treme poverty to alienate the affections from God and fasten them 
on merely sensual enjoyment, be overlooked by those who have 
learned the value of the soul, and delight in the extension of the 
Redeemer's Kingdom. 

• Although I am, I trust, in some degree sensible of the deep im- 
portance of these topics, yet I do not wish to dwell upon them. 
At present, I only seek to procure such reforms as it is in the 
power of statesmen to secure, and I know how intolerant they are, 
of any appeals to the feelings or the passions. It is only through 
the practical and tho tangible that they can be moved, acd know- 
ing this I shall seek for no other instruments. 

Yours truly, 


(No. 5.) 

To EnAs W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State electy of the State 
of JVew- York : 

I have already drawn from official sources an aggregate of pau- 
perism, which has probably awakened equally your astonishment 
and sympathy, but you are far from having the whole case before 
you. The number of persons relieved and supported in this State 
by private societies and individuals, are not numbered by tens, 
nor hundreds, but by thousands. 

Almost all the different religious denomications contribute more 
or less to the' support of their own members. With the Society 
of Friends this is a fundamental principle — none of their members 
are permitted to accept a charity from the public. Then there 
are the inmates of the numerous orphan asylums, the beneficiaries 
of the fi'ee masons, and other fraternal associations, and lastly 
those who are under the care of societies, which, under the various 
names of Dorcas, Relief, Assistance, &c., societies, dispense assist- 
ance to a very large number of persons in all our large, and in 
many of our smaller cities and villages. 

It is impossible to estimate with any approximation to accuracy 
the number of persons relieved or supported through these agen- 



cieSj but if you desire to avail yourself of all the light attainable 
on the subject, there can be no doubt Mr. R. M. Haitleyj of New- 
York, will gladly furnish you with all the reports of the New- 
York Association for improving the condition of the poor," of 
which he is secretary, and those of the " New-York Female As- 
sistance Society," to which he has ready access. 

When you have studied their reports, together with those of the 
societies which are required by law to jfile their reports in the 
office of the Secretary of State, you will probably be prepared to 
admit, that the persons relieved or supported by private charity 
are very nearly equal to those supported at the expense of the 

It not unfrequently happens that the same persons receive 
partial relief Irom public officers, and the agents of private as- 
sociations; after making due allowance for such contingencies, it 
will be safe to assume that one person out of every sixteen in the 
State of New-York, requires and receives assistance from public 
or private bounty. 

You may now suppose that you have got to the bottom of the 
matter, that at length you have taken the gauge and mensuration 
of all the poverty in the State. Be patient, my dear sir, you must 
grope deeper before you come to the bottom of the mystery ot 
poverty. All that we have done heretofore has been to ascertain 
the number of those who receive assistance; we have yet to enquire 
how many there are who need assistance, but never receive it. 

I cannot state th number of this class, but I know from per- 
sonal investigations, that it is very large. They may be said to 
exist, rath(ir than live; they procure money enough by picking up 
rags, bones, or old iron in the streets, or still worse, by petty pilfering, 
to keep their breath in their bodies, but are utter strangers to any 
of the decencies or comforts of life. In the city of Liverpool there 
are over 40,000 persons living in cellars. We have no statistics, 
that I am aware of, for the city of New- York, but there is no doubt 
that the number of persons residing in cellars is much greater than 
in Liverpool. I cannot give you a better idea of the miserable 
condition of the residents of these places, than by transcribing 

No. 72.] 


the following description from Dr. Griscom's «^ Lecture on the 
sanitary condition of the poor." He says, after describing the 
residences of the poor above ground, " But the most offensive of 
all places for residence, are the cellars. It is almost impossible? 
when contemplating the circumstances and condition of the poor 
beings who inhabit these places, to maintain the proper degree of 
calmness, requisite for a thorough inspection, and the exercise of 
a sound judgment respecting them. You must descend to them; 
you must feel the blast of foul air as it meets your face on opening 
the door; you must grope in the dark, or hesitate until your eye 
becomes accustomed to the gloomy place, to enable you to find 
your way through the entry, over a broken floor, the boards of 
which are protected from your tread by a half inch of hard dirt; 
you must inhale the suffocating vapor of the sitting and sleeping 
rooms; and in the dark damp recess, endeavor to find the inmates 
by the sound of their voices, or chance to see their figures moving 
between you and the flickering blaze of a shaving burning on the 
hearth, or the misty light of a window coated with dust and fes- 
tooned with cobwebs. Or if in search of an invalid, take care 
that you do not fall ful? length upon the bed with her, by stumb- 
ling against the bundle of rags and straw, by that name, lying on 
N the floor under a window, if window there is; all this and much 
more, beyond the reach of my pen, must be felt and seen, ere you 
can appreciate in its full force the mournful and disgusting condition 
in which many of our fellow citizens pass their lives." I have 
abundant materials on hand to illustrate the condition of the un- 
assisted poor, but I will forbear, and will close this letter with 
asking you if I have not fully proved the assertion, that "pauper- 
ism is rapidly and dangerously increasing in the State of New- 
York." Yours truly, 


( IS'o. 6. ) 

To the Hon. Eli as W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State: 

11. The Expenses of Pauperism have greatly increased. 

This second proposition would seem naturally to follow from 
the first that we have been endeavoring to establish, viz: that 



pauperism itself has greatly increased. Those who are willing 
to admit the first, will need little proof to admit the second. 
Nevertheless, it will make our way clear, and help us to arrive at 
some conclusions, to enter into some of the details of that in- 
creased expenditure. The total cost incurred by the tax payers 
of this State, during the year 1831, for the support or relief of 
paupers, was $245,433.21; for the year 1841 it was $538,709.44; 
and for the year 1851 it was $857,866.91; for the year 1852 it 
was $991,866.28. 

I have stated in my third letter that the population of the State 
in 1831 w^as 1,918,608. In 1841 it was 2,428,921, and in 1851 it 
was 3,097,394. You will excuse me, sir, for this repetition, but 
you will please remember that these letters are intended for the 
public as well as for yourself, and that many will desire to know 
something of the objects on which their taxes are expended, who 
have not your facilities for consulting the statistics of the State. 

, From these statements it appears that the increased annual ex- 
pense at the end of the ten years which* expired in 1841, was 
$293,276.23, or 119 per cent. The increase at the close of the 
next period of ten years ending in 1851, was $319,157.47, or 59 
per cent. If we compare the direct dilference in the cost of 
pauperism in 1831 and 1851, we find that it is J612,373.70, or 
249 per cent, while, as we have seen in the third letter, the popu- 
lation had only increased 61 per cent. 

I think, sir, this result is one which we should not have ex- 
pected from any a pWcwi reasoning; the country was far richer in 
1851 than it was in 1831. The cost of the main articles of do- 
mestic consumption was less; the demand for labor was more 
various and more abundant, and it was better paid. Judging 
from these facts, we might suppose that pauperism would diminish 
rather than increase, and that the burdens of the tax payer would 
grow lighter rather than heavier; but the inexorable logic of 
facts completely overthrows such an inference, when we find that 
while in 1831 pauperism levied a tax of 12 cents and 7 mills on 
each person in the State, in 1851 it swelled to 27 cents and 7 mills 
on each person. 

No. 72.] 


la view of these facts, it becomes unspeakably important to in- 
quire how this great amount of pauperism, and its resulting taxa- 
tion, may be dimiaishecl or totally abolished. In order to an.-wer 
this inquiry satisfactorily we must ascertain, 1st. The causes of 
this remarkable increase of pauperism, and 2d. The abuses of the 
administration of the funds raised for the relief and support of 
the poor. 

1. The causes of this remarkable increase of pauperism. 

First — Strange as it may appear, one of the most prolific causes 
of this increase is the extraordinary increase of knowledge, and 
its application to the ordinary objects and purposes of life. New 
discoveries are daily made in the mechanical and the chemical 
arts, which supercede mere brute force — mere muscular and un- 
intelligent exertion. Steam, wind and water, have almost in- 
finitely augmented the sources of physical power, and have driven 
those laborers who have nothing but the strength ot their bodies 
to sell, almost out of the market. Allow me to call your atten- 
tion to one or two illustrations of this remark. It is within the 
memory of those now living, when there was no such thing as a 
steam engine known. A large proportion of the work now per- 
formed by steam engines was then performed by men. It would 
take 40,000 men to draw up as many coals through the shaft of a 
mine, as a single engine of the size of that on board of the steam- 
boat Isaac Newton. Now, if a single steam engine will dispense 
with so many men, what must be the number of those who have 
lust a market for their labor by the combined action of all the 
engines now in operation. 

It is not very long since all the grain raised in this State was 
threshed out with flails. It requires no intellect whatever to per- 
form this labor; any one, not a perfect idiot, can stand and pound 
upon the floor of a barn. This employment was usually relied 
on by laborers for their winter's employment. Now there is 
scarcely a farmer to be found who threshes with a flail. Thresh- 
ing machines are everywhere used, and have completely cut off 
this source of winter employment. I will not extend these illus- 
trations; but I hope, sir, that you will not stop v;here I do.. 

^0 [Senate 

Spend some time in thinking of the various ways in which mere 
unintelligent labor has been superseded within the circle of your 
own experience by new discoveries in the arts, and you will see 
how much significance there is in this view of the case. 

I do not assert, nor do I believe that the actual amount of labor, 
or rather employment, is diminished by labor saving machines. 
Such machines must be constructed and attended by intelligent 
men; the labor they require is that of the brain, rather than of 
the muscles. Unfortunately, there is a very large class who have 
no intelligence, and who are incapable of doing anything where 
knowledge or ingenuity is required. It is this class who are cut 
off from labor by the new inventions in the arts. 

Yours truly, 


(No. 7.) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State electj of 
the State of JS^ew York : 

Second— The next cause for the increase of pauperism amongst 
us to which I wish to advert is the increase of our foreign popu- 
lation. The increase of the burthen which is cast upon the tax- 
payers is really most extraordinary, if not alarming, as will ap- 
pear from the following table taken from the records of the de- 
partment of State of the State of New York : 

1846, , 

Whole No. relieved 
or supported. 



Of these were 
Foreign era. 


Per cent of 







......... 151,399 



I have reason to believe that in the return from the superin- 
tendents of the county poor the number of foreign paupers is 
very much underrated. Many of those who are naturalized are 
returned as natives, and the children of foreigners are also in 
many cases set down as natives. According to the United States 

No. 72.] 


census for 1850, foreigne)^ constituted 26. 6 per cent of all the 
paupers in the country. 

7hird — The increase of intemperance is linother source of pau- 
perism. The returns from the different poor houses in this State 
in relation to this subject are perfectly frightful. In 18 IG intem- 
perance conveyed 6,685 persons to the poor house. In 1847, 
'8,566 persons. In 1849, 15,712 persons. The increase of pau- 
perism consequent on intemperance between 1846 and 1847 was 
27 percent., and from 1846 to 1849 it was 134 per cent. ! In the 
year 1851, 13,189 cases of pauperism were caused by intemper- 
ance, and in 1852, 18.350 arose from the vsame source. These 
facts you will recollect apply exclusively to our own State. 

That you may be assured that the very remarkable relation in- 
dicated above between pauperism and intemperance is not acci- 
dental or confined to the State of New- York, I give you facts 
from other States which confirm this relation in the most ample 
manner, I have before me a report by a committee of the Le- 
gislature of Connecticut made in 1852 on the condition of pau- 
perism in that State. Answers to their interrogatories more or 
less complete were received from 133 towns — from 15 towns no 
reports were received. In these towns 3,680 persons were par- 
tially or wholly supported during the preceding year. In 130 
towns- 972 persons, receiving partial or entire support, were re- 
duced to poverty through intemperance. The committee say : 
This number is not intended to include any part of that class 
who may have been reduced to their unfortunate condition 
through the cause of intemperance, either directly or indirectly, 
hut only such as are theoiselves habitually intemperate."—- 
The New-York reports show that the proportion between the 
number of persons reduced to pauperism in consequence of the 
intemperance of their husbands, fathers, or other care-takers, is 
as 2 of the former to 1 of tlie latter. If the sume ratio obtains 
in Connecticut 1,458 or 39 per cent, of the whole num' er owed 
their poverty directly or indirectly to intemperance. 

From the poor-law returns of the State of Massachusetts for 
1850 we learn that the number of persons relieved or supported 
was 25,981, of which number 14,074 or 5C per cent, became pau- 

[Senate, Nq. 72.] 6 



pers through inteiriperance. In 1852, out of 37,624 relieved or 
supported, 16,853 or 61 per cent, were reduced to poverty in 
consequence of intemperance, 

I regret thiit I am unable to lay before you any further reliable 
statistics calculated to cast light upon this very interesting sub- 
ject of investigation, but there can scarcely be a doubt on your 
mind that intemperance Is really one of the most fertile causes 
of pauperism in existence. I have visited a great many alms 
houses in various States of the Union, and have made very minute 
and careful inquiries in relation to intemperance, and from all 
that I have seen and heard its influence is decidedly underrated 
in the olScial returns, especially in our own State. The causes 
of pauperism are not given in from one-half to one-third of the 
cases, and those W'here the causes are given they are not the 
result of careful examination on the part of the keeper, but 
merely the record of the pauper's own story. These statements, 
therefore, so far as tliey go only show how many of the paupers 
acknowledged themselves to have become so through intemper- 
ance. Those who are accustomed to visit our poor-houses know 
that many who become inmates through the grossest intemper- 
ance will stoutly deny that they were drunkards, 

Fourth—The next cause of the increase of pauperism is the in- 
creasing prevalence of licentiousness. I am provided with ample 
details and proofs of this assertion, but they would be better 
adapted to a private than a public letter. I embrace this among 
the enumeration here, because I believe that legislation may do 
much for the suppression of vice, and I cannot consistently with 
my sense of duty, conceal from the public eye any of the causes 
of pauperism which it is in the power of public servants to di- 
minish or totally suppress. I trust, sir, you will not deem it im- 
proper for me to state that within the last four weeks I have been 
solicited to purchase books by itinerant venders who frequent 
our steamboats and railroad cars. When J have refused to pur- 
chase the seller has, in five different instances, turned up the 
corner of a leaf and exhibited an obscene picture as an induce- 
ment to buy, with an assurance that there w^as " ntore of the 
same sort in the volume.'' Judging from the frequency with 

No. 72.] 


which theso wretched volames liavo been offered to me I should 
Inlei" that they were freqiieiitly sold, and exercised, of course, a 
most pernicious ialluenco on the immunity. 

Fifth — Gambling is a very common source of poverty, espe- 
cially lottery gambling. The laws are certainly very stringent 
against it, but they are quite inefficient. Dealers certainly do not 
advertise them, nor openly exhibit their signs, nevertheless im- 
mense numbers are sold, and chiefly to the laboring poor. I could 
tell you many a heart-rending story of families reduced to beg- 
gary and disgrace through the pernicious habit of lottery gam- 

Sixth—The condition of the poor in our large cities inevitably 
tends to in<}rease pauperism. 

The children of the poor in our large cities are born and reared 
in filthy cellars, crowded and ill-ventilated apartments — fed on 
ill-cooked and indigestible food.— the sexes mingled indiscrimi- 
nately, without access to any sources of instruction or amuse- 
ment. They grow up with every physiological and moral cause 
in vigorous operation which is calculated to repress the desire and 
ability to procure a decent living. You can scarcely conceive, 
sir, living as you do in your elegant mansion at Syracuse, sur- 
rounded by every comfort and every luxury which art can con- 
trive and wealth can purchase — I say, sir, you can hardly con- 
ceive of the miserable condition in which these poor creatures 
live. There is hardly a pig-sty in the county of Onondaga that 
is not preferable as a habitation to those inhabited by thousands 
of poor persons in the cities of this State. I have no wish to lay 
bare the revolting scenes of misery and degradation that I have 
witnessed in my visits to these dwellings, yet you will perhaps 
allow me to give one case as a sample which at this moment oc- 
curs to me. It was at the Old Brewery, so celebrated in the an- 
nals of the Five Points in the city of New-York, a place which^ 
thanks to the Christian and self-denying labors of the Rev. L. M. 
Pease, has been purged of its pollution, but which at the time I 
speak of was a most terrible libel upon the Christianity and civi- 
lization of the city of New- York. I think there were dghty-six 
families crowded into that old rookery. It might stand as a live- 


ly symbol of tlio abomi nation of desolation. All the rooms with- 
out exception were as dirty as filth could make them; in all the 
stench was intolerable, and all were alive with vermin. In one 
of thfj apartments there were four families, each occupying a 
separate corner, and each having a right to a certain defined space 
of neutral ground around the fire-place. In one corner lay a 
woman in the last stages of fever ; she was entirely naked. She 
was provided with neither bed nor straw, but lay on carpenter's 
shavings. Her husband could neither provide any of the arti- 
cles which were required for either decency or comfort, but be- 
fore I left he had contrived to get some gin for her, the real blue 
ruin," and poured it down her throat. In another corner was a 
family where there were half a dozen children. One of them 
came in with a bag slung over his shoulder, which he at once 
emptied on the floor, (which, by the way, was covered with at 
least half an inch of dirt.) The bag contained bones with a lit- 
tle meat adhering to them, yet the children seized upon them as 
though they were the most delicious morsels, and gnawed them 
as ravenously as though they had been a pack of wolves. I asked 
one of these hopeful children if he knew there was a God? He 
scratched his head with a very doubtful expression, but at length 
he replied that he did. I then asked him what he knew about 
God. All his hesitation of manner had vanished now, and he 
answered with great promptness, "Well, he damns folks, sir!" 
It was evident that all he knew of Deity was from thosfe who pro- 
faned his name. 

It is almost impossible, sir, for a child brought up in this way 
to rise in the world, or become anything else but a pauper. They 
are almost invariably tainted with scrofula which unfits them for 
labor, and their brutal ignorance equally unfits them for other 
avocations. Nor do they care much for any other position. All 
sentiments of ambition are eiTectuaily crushed within them, and 
they are contented to live as they were born, and die as they 
have lived, without hope or expectation of improvement. Every 
one of these children grows up to be fathers of another generation 
of paupers, and in this way pauperism rapidly increases by natural 
propagation. Were there no other causes, this alone would cause 

No. 72.] 85 

pauperism to increase faster than the population. I do not giye 
these details to awalien ernoLions oi pity — this in no part of my 
plan. I only wish to detail plain sober facls with which I think 
yourself and the people should be familiar. I should not have 
drawn the veil from the scenos of wretchedness, did I not think 
it was necessary to reveal them in order that you might perceive 
the necessity of tiiose plans of remedial legislation wiiich it is my 
intention to propose in subsequent letters. 

Yours, truly, 
( No. 8. ) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenv/orth, Secretary cf State elect 
of the State of JYew-York: 

Seventh, — Another cause of the increase of pauperism arises 
from the neglect of the proper oihcers to give a suitable education 
to tiie children born and brought up in our poor-houses. 

The number of children under 16 years in the poor-houses of 
the State was, in 

No. inotructed 

Time of 



(iariiig the year. 


... 1,120 




8 months, 


. ... 1,275 




7J do 

1851, ... 

, 1,152 




Sh do 






8 do 

The returns look fair enough on their face,'With respect to in- 
struction; it would seem tiiat the children in these establish- 
ments erjoy better educational privileges than the children of 
farmers in most of the rural districts of the State. 

I have ascertained, however, from pei-sonal investigation, that 
there is no reality in all this, as yon may also ascertain, if you 
will trike the trouble to examine for yourself. I really don't 
know what meaning the county superintendents of the poor attach 
to the word i?(^aca^207i; I know they sometAcnes use words in a 
sense not warranted by any Dictionary that ever I consulted. But 
if they mean anything which elevates the mind — anything which 



ministers to the moral feelings or the intellectual powers — any- 
thing which will help to get a living, or to discharge intelligently 
the duties incident to citizenship — there is no such thing given to 
the youth in our county houses. I have visited many of th.e 
poor-houses myself, and have obtained authentic information by 
correspondence, from many others, and from all this I think I am 
warranted in saying that out of the 3,000 children slieltered in 
them, only a very small fraction, a mere drop in the bucket, ob- 
tain an education that will be of the slightest use to them in 
getting a living, or in making useful members of society. In 
many cases the teacher is a pauper, generally an old drunkard, 
whose temper is soured and whose intellect is debased, and who 
spends the school hours in tormenting, rather than in teaching 
his pupils. In many of these schools there is no book except the 
Testament to be found, no slates, pens or paper. In some coun- 
ties not a dollar has been expended in text books or stationery 
since the county system has been adopted. Under such circum- 
stances the n\me of school is a mere farce. 

There are between five and six hundred children bound out 
-every year from the poor-houses under the authority of the super- 
iiiitendents of the poor. 

There is always a stipulation in the indentures for a certain 
amount of education fur each child, or, raore properly, that the 
child should have a certain number of months', schooling during 
each year of its apprenticeship. It is of course impossible for a 
private person like myself to acquire accurate information in re- 
lation to the fidelity with which this stipulation is fulfilled. 
What I could do I have done. I have made personal inquiries of 
the superintendents of many counties, and have sought informa- 
tion extensively by correspondence. I do not recollect more than 
two or three who had ever made a single inquiry on the subject, 
or who knew whether the children so bound out ^re sent to 

No. bound out. 

In the year 1848, 



do 1849, 

do 1850, 

do 1851, 

do 1852, 

No. 72.] m 

school or not, and in these few cases there was no pretence that 
the inquiries had been systematic or thorough. I have tound 
many children bound out by the superintendents who never re- 
ceived one liour's education during tlieir apprenticeship, and 
who, at the age of twenty- one, were cast loose on the w^orld no 
better than the heathen. How can children brought up in this 
way be expected to become anythhig else than criminals or pau- 
pers, and the fathers and mothers of criminals and paupers'? 
They have no ambition to acquire property, and if they had, they 
have no means to acquire it. They cannot enter into trade, 
because in order to do this with any success they must be able to 
read, write and cypher, and this they cannot do. We have shown 
before that the mere laborer, who has nothing but bodily strength 
to sell in the market, cannot save anything from his wages, his 
pay is too small, and his employment too precarious to permit it, 
and every year adds to this precariousness. A single seed of 
Canada thistle planted in a field will bear a full sized plant, which, 
in its turn will bear seeds from which new plants will spring, and 
thus a field, once fertile, will become filled with these noxious 
plants. Just so with the 3,000 children in our poor-houses, and 
with the 600 who are annually bound out. Each one of these is 
a seed of pauperism, which will bear plants that will again bear 
seed, and in time will overrun the State with a burden of pauper- 
ism and crime, which it will be utterly unable to bear. This is a 
cause of the increase of pauperism, which is plain and taDgible, 
and which can be understood by every one; I therefore commend 
it to your most serious consideration. 

(No. 9. ) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State elect of 
the State of Jfew- York ; 

Eighth. — The increasing prevalence of insanity is a fruitful 
cause of the increase of pauperism. The number of pauper luna- 
tics in this State for the last five years, is given in the following 
table : 

LuEatios. Idiota. 

1848, 698 319 

1849, 1,036 297 

V 1850, 1,121 297 

1851,.., 1,103 230 

1852, 1,522 461 



I do not know that it is"p<issible for the increase of insanity to: 
be checked by legislation, but its power to increase pauperism 
may be very greatly diminished. You know, sir, that insanity is 
one of ihe most curable of diseases, if submitted to treatment in 
its eai'licL^t stages; but the most incurable, if neglected for any 
considerable time after its commencement. The result of a most 
ample experience on this subject you will fLixd detailed in Dr. 
Earle's History and Statistics of Bioomingdale Asylum, and the 
volumes of the Journal of Insanity. Many of the insane paupers 
in our poor houses have been there for years, and will probably 
remain there for life. Had they been sent to an asylum at the 
first outbreak of the disorder, they mlglxt in a great majority of 
cases have been cared in a few months, and, instead of swelling 
the catalogue of our paupers, they would now be earning their 
own living. From the report of Thomas R. Hazard, alluded to* 
in a former letter, 1 take the following statement : " By the sta- 
tistics contained in this report, it may be seen that the average 
time that ten of the insane paupers now at their asylum (poor 
house) have been maintained by the town of Newport, is more 
than 25 years — thus showing that the town has been put to a 
charge for the sapport ot ten persons only, of probably not less 
than $12,000.00. Now, there can be but little doubt that a large 
proportion of these cases would have early recovered, had the 
subject of them be sent to a good curative hospital, in the very 
earliest slages of their malady." This statement brings to my 
mind a case of an insane pauper, that I saw in the Newport poor 
house above metitioned, in the summer of 1851. He was cast in 
a gigantic mould, and his strength corresi)onded v/ith his stature. 
Coarse in his feelings, and his appetites his great glory, — the 
highest aim of his existence was to whip every one with whom he 
came in contact, and he generally did whip them. Being natur- 
ally quarrelsome and ill-natured, he was a nuisance in the town 
where he lived — a perfect pest of society. At length this Goliah 
met with a David who overcame him. He insulted a little wry 
fellow, who resented the insult, and was not at all cast down or 
intimidated by the appearance of his burly antagonist. They 
fought, and Goliah was thoroughly beaten, — threshed within an 
inch of his life, and compelled to slink away like a dog detected 

No. 73.] 89 

in sheep stealing, I do not know whether it was in consequence 
of mortiflciition at his defeat by so iiisignificant an opponent, or of 
blows on the head received during (he combat, but he immedia-- 
tely became insane and was removed to the poor Louse. 

I have visited some of the lunatic asylums of our country, again 
and again, and supposed I was pretty familiar with every phase 
of insanity, but, when I sav; this man, I felt that I knew nothing 
about the matter. Such continuous hyena like fury as I saw in 
him, I did not suppose could. possibly exist in anything wearing 
the lineaments of a man. It was more safe to enter the den of a 
lion or a tiger, than to enter his den; his screams were constant 
and frightful, and the blows which he struck against the side of 
his apartment were tremendous; sometimes he would inflict blows 
on his own forehead for half an hour together, so violent you 
wondered that the skull was not cracked; in fact there w^as a 
tough callous raised on his forehead nearly an inch thick, io con- 
sequence of them. The authorities were humane men, and rather 
than keep him chained, they built a cag$ of timbers some thirty 
feet by twenty, in which he might safely take ai!, and exercise, 
and sunshine. Yet everything human seemed entirely extin- 
guished within Ivim; nothing but tlie brute remained. Well, sir, 
when the Eutler asylum was organized in Rhode Island, this ap- 
parently hopeless case was sent there, I believe through the inter- 
vention of Miss Dix, and, astonishing to relate., after a residence 
there of about a year, he was cured ! The order, the quiet, the- 
humane feelings which permeate the whole atmosphere of the 
place, had worked a wondrous change in his whole nature. When 
he returned to society he was a vastly better man, and now earns 
a comfortable living, and is a respectable member of society. If 
there was hope for him, there is hope for all. Our laws are good 
enough upon this point. They contain ample provision for trying 
the benefit of a good asylum for every recent case of insanity 
among the poor, but the difficulty is, the superintendents of the 
poor do not avail themselves of its provisions. At least $100,000 
are annually expended in this State for the support of the insane 
poor. I am confident $60,000 might be annually saved to the tax 
payers, if the county superintendents would act in accordance 
with the spirit of ihe law. In looking over what I have written^ 



I find, to US8 the lawyer's phrase, my proof does not exactly sus- 
tain ray declaration. Let me, therefore, avail myself of the pro- 
visions of the New Code and amend it, ?o that both may corres- 
pond, and state as the 8th cause of the increase of pauperism, the 
neglect of the county superintendents to avail themselves of the 
curative means provided by law for the insane poor, and by such 
neglect they increase the number of paupers. If you can procure 
any improvement in this matter, you will enrol yourself in the 
rank of a great public benefactor. 

Yours, &c., FIlANKLm. 

(ISo. 10.) 

To the Hon, Elias W. Leavknworth, Secretary of State of tJie 

State of Mew York: 

Kinth — Indiscriminate private alms-giving is a frightful source 
of the increase of pauperism. ' 

I have already called your attention to the report of the New- 
York Society for improving the condition of the poor. You will 
lind in these most full and ample details on this subject, and how- 
ever much this proposition may be opposed to your preconceived 
ideas, I think you will acknowledge that these reports fully de- 
monstrate that indiscriminate alms-giving increases pauperism. 
There is a class of meu and women, too, to whom the exercise of 
any faculty requiring a llrm will and a decided purpose is per- 
fectly intolerable; they will do anything, and sulfer anything, 
rather than form a plan of action, and adhere* perseveringly to 
it. It is a large class, much larger than most people are aware oj'. 
They are " waiters on Providence," to borrow a phrase from 
€romwellian times. They are always waiting for something to 
turn up, as w^e are told by Mr. Dickens. Such people will work 
rather than starve, hut give them the least encouragement — let 
them get the least glimpse of a chance of access to the fountains 
of charity, and they bid farewell to labor at once and forever. 
You and I, sir, would greatly prefer to shoulder our pick-axes 
and w^ork on a railroad, till our sinews cracked, than stand all 
day in the streets of a city exposed to all weathers, and mutely 

No. 72 ] 


beg with outstretclied hand as some do, or with a canting whice, 
as do others. But this chiss of men really do enjoy it. They 
are contented lo live on the industry of others all their days, and 
to bequeath the trade of beggary to their chikh^en after them. 
It is very common for them to spend the pleasant season of sum 
mer in the streets of our large cities, where they can procure 
enough by begging diu'ing the day to procure the means of feast- 
ing and revelry for the night. When winter comes they quietly 
transfer themselves to the county liouse, there to remain until 
the first fine days of spring allure them to their wonted haunts. 
This system of private alms-giving tends to fc)stcr pauperism. 
By weakening the principle of frugality, the encouragement of 
early and thoughtless marriages; the bringing up of cliildren 
with examples of indolence and inactivity continually before their 
eyes, and habituating them to hypocrisy, lying and carelessness, 
weakening the natural dependence and affection of parent, chil- 
dren and other relatives. A child brought up in this way really 
cannot get a living- -they cannot even try; they would no more 
think of making the effort than they would think of climbing 
upwards to the moon. This is no exaggerated language ; it is 
the sober statement of simple truth. We may form some idea of 
the advantage to be derived from the abolition of private alms- 
giving by what resulted in England from the enactment of the 
new poor law in 1834. Under the old system out-door relief was 
extended to the able-bodied paupers by the parish officers. By 
the new law all relief was refused to the able-bodied except with- 
in the walls of the work-house. The evils of partial relief by 
parish officers are not as great as those arising from private 
bounty, because these oflicers enjoy facilities for detecting impos- 
ture which private persons cannot pretend to. Mr. Porter's 
Progress of the Nation," vol. 2, p. 369, says, this law "has had 
the effect, for the extent of which it is difficult fully to account, 
in converting the idle to habits of industry." A letter written by 
Mr. Woolly to Mr. Gueson, one of the assistant Poor Law Com- 
missioners, says, in speaking of this abolition of out-door relief 
to the able-bodied, " I wanted to talk to you on the almost magi- 
cal effect I find produced by the new poor-laws in the South." 
* * « « xii^j change has been made, and the efiect is more 

9» [Senate 

than anj one could have hoped.". * * * "J have seen the 
eflect OD the poor-rates, the cliaracter of the population, the ira-. 
provement oi* (lie land— such a change! 1 have talked with all 
sorts of* persons, of all sorts of opinions on other subjects, and 
have heard but one opinion on this — that the measure has saved 
the country. Let every man see the straight- forward walk, the 
upright look of the laborer, as contrasted with what was before 
seen at every step in those counties. The sturdy and idle nui- 
sance has already become the useful and industrious member of 
society. No man who has not looked well into human nature, 
and the practical working of the wietehed system of pauperism, 
can form an idea how ditferent is sixpence earned by honest in- 
dustry and sixpence wrung from the pay-table of a parish officer. 
I am fully convinced that the measure has doubled the value of 
property in many parts of the kingdom. Th's is important ; but 
pounds, shillings and pence will not measure the value of the 
change in character wiiicli is already visible, and which I am 
w^ell convinced will develope itself more and more.^' 

Such are the results of English experience, and I have no doubt 
if means could be found to arrest begging and private alms-giving, 
greater benefits than even these would follow in this country. 
There is no doubt that it can be done if the popular will is 
brought strongly to bear upon it. Count Ramford elected it per- 
fectly in Bavaria, with great pecuniary saving to the public, and 
great amelioration of the condition of the poor, and what he could 
eHect io that country, is surely not beyond our j»ower, if we 
steadily apply our energies to effect it. 

(No. 11. ) 

Tenth — Pauperism is increased by the change which has taken 
place in the habits and feelings of the poor. 

By this, I mean that the poor are less independent than they 
were twenty years ago. They are more inclined to calculate sys- 
tematically on relief from the public chest. In 183 J th<:rewasa 

Wo. 72.] 


strong repugnance ou the part of the poor to go to the County 
house, or to accept public relief in any form. It was astonishing 
to see what suffering they would undergo, rather than become a 
public charge, and it was no less astonishing to witness the extent 
to which they carried the science of frugality. They struggled 
hard and perseveringly to acquire a little, and that little they con- 
trived should supply them with a great many necessaries. They 
knew how to mend, and darn, and turn their clothes, and when 
all this had been done to its utmost extent, they contrived to alter 
them so that they would answer for their children ; when these in 
their turn had worn them, until all the resources of patching, 
mending, and turning, were exhausted, they would cut them into 
carpet rags and sell them, and thus make thera contribute to the 
purchase of a new suit, In the spring they would dig,dandelions 
and gather water cresses, in the summer gather berries, in thef^iU 
nuts, and in winter they would knit stockings, make toy brooms, 
or do anything whatever to earn a six-pence. Every cat was 
made to catch a rat, and every kitten a mouse.^' Things have 
greatly changed now. I do not mean that this feeling of indepen- 
dence has utterly deserted every poor person — Heaven forbid that 
I should be guilty of such indiscriminate slander. I know there 
are those who would never cast themselves on the public bounty 
until every personal resource was utterly exhausted. But it is of 
the poor in the aggregate that I speak— of the class— and of the 
class, the remarks are but too true. They are more w^asteful now, 
they have less forecast, less sense of shame in living on the pub- 
lic. If they have plenty to-day, they will live riotously, forgetful 
that they have no assurance of a supply for the morrow ; and, 
when that morrow's sun rises upon them without provision for its 
necessities, they feel no contrition that what was wasted yester- 
day would have been ample for the supply of to-day.. They have 
no shame in going out to beg — they will whine and grovel before 
those from whom tliey expect relief, and if they are unsuccessful, 
will feign sickness, that they may have an order from the poor- 

The lack of proper independence of feeling is strikingly exem- 
plified in the conversations of the poor in our County Houses. It 

94 [Senate 

is uot uncommon to hear ihem discussing the merits of the Poor 
Houses in different rarts of tlie State, just as fashionable travel- 
lers discuss the merits of the Ocean House at Newport, or the 
United States at Saratoga. At this house, there are poor accommo- 
dations—nothing is to be got but mush and potatoes — they would 
never recommend a friend to stop at such a place. At another, 
they maka you work, and this cannot be endured. At another, 
the fare is pretty good, but then, they give you no tobacco. Such 
a place is first rate ; the pork is fat, the beef is tender, and then 
you get plenty of cabbage and onions, and have nothing to do. I 
once heard a pauper praising one of our County Houses in the 
most enthusiastic terms ; it had all the above enumerated advan- 
tages, and more to boot ; it was in the vicinity of a tavern and a 
blacksmith's shops; the paupers could get mon^y enough at these 
places, by holding horses, and such cdd jobs, to keep them half 
drunk the whole time. This came nearer to a heaven upon earth 
than anything he had ever heard of; and he informed me, when 
spring came, and traveling was pleasant, he meant to go back and 
end his days there. All this was told me in the most business-like 
manner imaginable, and without the slightest consciousness on his 
part that there was anything odd or improper in what he was saying. 
They look upon County Houses as places of rest and repose, in- 
tended to shield them from effort and labor, and they can see no 
reason why they should not avail themselves of their comforts with- 
out scruple, as oftfen and as for long as it suits their convenience. 
This is not so much a cause of pauperism as it is a result of other 
causes. The great increase of foreign pauperism has had much 
to do with it, they have leavened our native poor with their own 
shiftless and dependent feelings. Private alms-giving, and the 
careless granting of permits to the County House by the poor mas- 
ter, has had a bad influence, by holding out a temptation to lean 
on the public rather than on themselves. Formerly, the poor 
masters were obliged to get an order from a justice, before they 
could send a pauper to the County House, and the repeal of that 
law, which now allows the poor masters to send people of their 
own aCjCord to the County House, has done much to increase the 
evil. I now bring the enumeration of the causes which have in- 
creased, and are still increasing pauperism amongst us, to a close. 

No. 72.] M 

There are yet others, perhaps more deeply radicated in human 
nature than any that I have mentionedj but their discussion would 
lead us into metaphysical speoulations, \vhichl dtsire, if possible, 
to avoid. I\jy object has been to state nothing that is not suscep- 
tible of proof, and to draw no inferences but such as minds un- 
trained to the subtleties of reasoning may understand. If I am 
successful in my aim, I trust tlie public mind will be so operated 
on that you will find allies on every hand to aid you in the elfort 
for reform, which I trust you will feel it your duty to put forth. 

Yours, &C.5 


( No, 12. ) 

To the Hon. Elias W, Leavenworth, Secretary of Slate of the 
State cf J^ew- York: 

II. We are now prepared to enter into the second branch of 
our inquiry, viz : What abuses exist in the adminidraiion of our 
Poor Laws ? We shall then eater upon the consideration of the 
remedies to be applied. 

First. It seems to me that the very great discrepancies in the 
cost of supporting the poor in different counties, indicates a very 
great mismanagement in some of them. Just compare the ave- 
rage weekly co$t of supporting each pauper in the following par- 
allel columns and note the contrast. The cost stated is an ave- 
rage of six years : 

County of Average weekly Coanty of Average i^eckly 

eoet per head. cost per head. 

Putnam, 27 cts. 3 m. Lewis, 60 cts. 6 m. 

Orange,..,,;... 40 " 9" Herkimer, 70 " 3" 

Columbia, 49 " 6 Dutchess, 66 " 4" 

Albany, 61 " 2 « Rensselaer, 82 " 8 " 

Tompkins....... 40 7 Cortland, 59 " 6" 

Washington, 50 " 5 " Saratoga, 66 " 1 " 

It is difficult to account for this wide difference in the expenses 
of supporting paupers in these counties, except that the superin- 
tendents are either incompetent or dishonest. Putnam county is 

§6 [Senate 

near Kevr-York^ tlie roads are rough and steep, and there is every 
natural reason vfhy living there should cost as much or ujorethan 
it does in Lewis county, which is farther from market, more fer- 
tile in soil, and where everything conspires to make living cheap, 
yet it costs 42 cents 3 mills more per week to support a pauper 
in the former than in the latter. Just so it is with Orange and 
Herkimer. Why should a pauper cost 29 cents 4 mills more per 
week in the one than in the other. Dutchess and Columbia are 
adjoining counties and the expenses of living are as nearly alike 
in both as possible, yet it costs sixteen cents 4 mills more to sup- 
port a Dutchess county pauper than it does a Columbia county 

I have visited the poor houses in both Albany and Rensselaer 
counties, and I am sure that the paupers live quite as comfortably 
in Albany as they do in Rensselaer^ while Albany takes better 
care of the sick and has more of tliem than Rensselaer, but the 
latter pays 20 cents and 8 mills per head more than the former. 
I have visited many of the poor houses in the State making minute 
inquiries in regard to the management of them, and have carefully 
sought tor information about others which I have not visited by 
correspondence and by interviews with members of the Legisla- 
ture. I cannot doubt that the main cause of the mal-ad ministra- 
tion of the poor fund, is the unfitness of the men selected to ad- 
minister them. You understand party tactics as well as most 
men. You understand how nominating conventions are got to- 
gether and how they are managed, and knowing this, you will not 
be surprised that unfit men are selected for county superintend- 
ents of the poor. Sometimes there are two or three candidates 
for sheriff or member of Assembly. Unfortunately only one can 
receive the nomination, but if the defeated candidates go away 
with sore heads, they may defeat the election. They have influ- 
ence, are good electioneerers, and have power to damage the party 
serioasly if they are so disposed. To prevent this they are nom- 
inated for something else, and more likely than otherwise, this 
something else, will be superintendent of the poor. This office 
is not sought for by men who wish to exercisa its powers and du- 
ties for the welfare of tlie unfortunate objects committed to their 
care, or for the advantage of the tax-payers ; these are the very 

No. 72.] 


last things they think of. Their object is to make money — this 
is the sum and substance of the matter. Nor is the question of 
the special fitness of the candidates taken into consideration by 
nominating conventions. The sole question there, is, how many 
votes will he control? and how will his nomination affect other 
portions of the ticket? Now since this is notoriously the case, 
how can any one expect that fit men will be chosen. If you or 
any other gentlemen have occasion to employ a clerk in your own 
private business, you do not enquire into his capacity for hunting 
muskrats, or making chowder, or into any qualification he may 
possess for matters which have no relation whatever to the busi- 
ness you design to employ him in. You seek to know if he writes 
a legible hand — if he is expert in accounts-— if he is honest, and 
if he is v/ell fitted in all respects for his occupation. After you 
have fully ascertained all thiSj you may reasonably expect that 
your man will suit you. But you would not expect to have a 
good clerk if you took no pains to test his capabilities beforehand. 
It is exactly so with superintendents of the poor. We do not 
select men oa account of their qualifications ; in fact they are 
often selected for their disqualifications, and therefore there can 
be no surprise, if they turn out to be disqualified. 

In general one of the superintendents is a country merchant and 
two are farmers. The purchasing of the supplies is generally di- 
vided among them thus : The merchant supplies the fi^h and gro- 
ceries and clothing; one of the farmers supplies the meat, and the 
other the miscellaneous articles. The merchant furnishes his 
portion from his own store, at the highest retail prices, charging 
for the very wrapper and twine in which the goods are enveloped. 
The more he supplies the greater will be his profit. Since a pro- 
digal use of the supplies enhanced his profits, he cannot be ex- 
pected to labor very zealously to restrain waste and extravagance 
on the part of the keeper. 

The farmer who supplies the meat, purchases a lot of cattle fat 
and lean together and has them, charged to himself at so much per 
head. He takes two bills. The fat cattle are placed in one bill, 
and the lean ones in the other. The one is made out in his pri- 
vate name, the other of the thin ones, in his official name. Sup- 

( Senate, No. 72.] 7 

98 [Senatl 

pose a lot of cattle of 40 head is worth from $10 to $20 each ; to 
the seller it makes no difference whether they are sold at so much 
each head within these limits, or whether the price is averaged at 
$15 per head. The sum received by him is the same in either 
case ; he gets $800, no more nor less. But it makes a great dif- 
ference to the county, for it pays $400 for cattle that are only 
worth $200, and the superintendent pays only $400 for cattle that 
are worth $600, making $200 profit out of the county by the 
transaction. I have been informed of this mode of dealing in so 
many counties that I am led to believe the practice is a very com- 
mon one. The superintendent charged with the purchase of the 
supplies, manages in the same way, and "feathers his nest" by the 
same method. Hence, though their vouchers are perfectly reg- 
ular, the county pays much more for each article than it is really 
worth. The whole thing is reduced to a regular system in most 
of the counties of the State, and there is no one officially charged 
with the investigation of their management except a committee of 
the board of supervisors, who are not accountants by profession^ 
and usually are incapable of detecting the errors in artfully con- 
trived accounts, and therefore they escape detection. Undoubt- 
edly there are many honorable exceptions to the rule. Among 
our superintendents, some of them are I know as high-minded and 
honorable men as the State affords, but they are the exceptions. 
I do not pretend to enumerate all the modes by which the county 
is defrauded, but what I have already stated will suffice to con- 
vince you that a radical reform is imperatively demanded. 


(No. 13.) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 
State of JVew-York: 
Second — The architectural design and mechanical structure of 
poor houses is very bad ; I scarcely think I should be guilty of 
exaggeration if I say it is as bad as it can be. 

Every one knows the difference in the expense of supporting 
even a small family in a convenient and well arranpjed house, and 
one that is inconvenient; twice as many steps must be taken to 
do the same work; much time is lost in looking for things mis- 

No. 72.] 


laid, as they are sure to be when no uniform place is provided 
for them ; an ill contrived house is an obstacle to order, system 
and comfort. If this be so in a small family, how greatly must 
the rates of trouble and expense be increased when the family 
consists of hundreds. 

I have not seen all the poor houses in the State, but I have seen 
many of them, and I can most truly declare that I have nevei 
seen a well contrived building among them all. The almshouse 
in the city of New-York is the only one that has anything like plan 
or design about it, and that is planned very badly; the water closets 
alone, I have been informed on good authority, cost $40,000^ 
and they are perfect nuisances after all; better ones could have 
been built for §400. This building was erected by the common 
council and the old commissioners of the almshouse. Things are 
managed better under the Ten Governors. You will probablj 
make an official visit to BlackwelFs Island this summer. When 
there, let me beg you to compare the almshouse and the workhouse 
erected by the Ten Governors, and note the superior conveniences 
of the latter establishment. You will find that all possible wants 
of the inmates have been foreseen and provided for; a place is 
arranged for everything; the rooms between which there will be 
the most intercourse are placed contigmous to each other; all the- 
rooms may be easily and conveniently inspected by the of&cerSj 
and those requiring the most careful oversight are the most con^ 
yeniently overlooked. This superior arrangement, you will easily 
see, will be productive of great economy in supporting the estab« 
lishment. After visiting the New- York Workhouse you will d€> 
well to go through the Rensselaer county Poor-house, and yoii 
will then understand better than I can tell you how much is lost 
to the tax-payers of the State in consequence of the malconstroe* 
tion of the poor-houses. , 

There are other things to be thought of in building a house be- 
sides mere convenience. Durability, warming and ventilating 
are questions which very much alfect the economy of the institu- 
tion. There is much of sham building to be seen in the State, but 
in none is there so much unmitigated sham as in the countj 
houses. It would appear that the sole object of the contriveis 
was to get anything in the shape of a building, at the least pos^— 



ble cost, without knowing or caring whetlier it was fit for the 
purpose intended or not. These miserable shells take twice as 
much fuel to warm them as they would if they were thoroughly 
builtj and every year they require appropriations for repairs, 
which form a large percentage on the original cost ; they are 
thus very expensive, and never answer the purpose. Very few 
of the poor-houses are furnished with scientific and economical 
apparatus for warming. Usually the old stoves are retained, 
which consume enormous quantities of fuel, roasting those in 
their immediate neighborhood, while those at a little distance are 
freezing. Much fuel is wanted, and nobody is comfortable. In 
the year 1851 an improved mode of heating and ventilating by 
steam was introduced into the Philadelphia almshouse; there 
was a saving of 30 per cent in fuel the first year ; 30 per cent on 
the fuel consumed in the poor-house of this State would amount 
to no inconsiderable sum, and would be a great relief to tax-pay- 
ers. As for ventilation, the thing is not thought of, as you will 
be assured most feelingly if you visit them. The dormitories 
early in the morning are dreadfully nauseous; I have often been 
surprised when I have smelled them, that they are not visited by 
the most malignant forms of pestilence. I have spoken of the 
saving of fuel by the new plan of heating in the Philadelphia 
almshouse ; I ought to add that ventilation of the most perfect 
kind is effected by the apparatus as well as heating. The air is 
now as sweet at midnight in the dormitories and hospitals as it is 
at mid-day. 

If you will support the poor with economy, convenient and 
well planned buildings must be erected. They must be strong 
and durable, and the most scientific plans for warming and ven- 
tilating must be introduced. But it must be understood by boards 
of supervisors that these things will cost money ; nothing should 
be spent in decoration, but they should not hesitate to appropri- 
ate a sum which shall be amvle to secure these objects, and a very 
different class of men from those who generally fill t'ne ojSice of 
county superintendents of the poor must be elected or the appro- 
priation will be pretty sure to be wasted. 

Very truly yours, 


No. 72.] 


(No. 14.) 

To the Hon. Eli as W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 

State of Kew'York: 

Third — Great loss arises from our ignorance of the true laws of 
diet, and the most economical methods of preparing and cooking 

These letters have already been extended to a much greater 
length than I expected when I began to write them, and I am 
greatly oppressed with a fear that you will grow weary of the de- 
tails embraced in them, and refuse to bestow on them any further 
attention, but I must beg you to have patience yet a little 
longer. The interests of vast numbers of paupers and tax payers 
are involved in the questions discussed^ and I feel so fully satis- 
fied that the measures of reform which I shall have the honor to 
propose for your consideration will be productive of great benefit 
to both these classes, that I am exceedingly anxious to put you in 
full possession of ail the evils which that plan is calculated to 

Unless vou have paid more attention to questions connected 
with food and diet than most men. you will be surprised at the 
subject of this letter. You will no doubt think that the cheapest 
mode of feeding the poor and the best modes of cooking their 
food is as well settled as the laws of gravitation. This is far from 
being the case. On the contrary, the whole subject lies in as 
deep, though I trust not in as hopeless, obscurity as the discovery 
of the longitude or the quadrature of the circle. I have con- 
sulted every authority I have had accei^s to — written, printed and 
verbal—- but I have never yet met with any decisive experiment 
on the relative nutritive values of beef, pork and mutton, in any 
book or manuscript whatever. Supposing such questions could 
not have been overlooked at the army and navy departments, I 
made personal application to the gentlemen presiding over them, 
but was told that they knew of no experiments whatever; and, 
in fact, until I made the inquiry, they had never given a single 
thought to the subject. The question to be settled is simply this : 
Suppose 100 lbs. of pork will keep a certain number of men a 
given length of time in good health and in full strength. Will 



100 lbs. of beef or 100 lbs. of mutton keep the same^number of 
men for the same length of time in equal health and strength? 
If there are differences, it is of great importance to ascertain the 
•exact numerical expression of such difference, as it is only in this 
way that we can make our purchases in the most economical 
manner. For example, if we ascertain that 120 lbs. of beef and 
140 lbs. of mutton are required to keep the game number of men 
for the same length of time as 100 lbs. of pork, we have a clear 
rule to guide our purchases. They will be equally cheap if the 
price of pork is $10, beef $8.33, and mutton $7.13, per 100 lbs. 
If either of these kinds of meat rises or falls abos^e or below the 
price named, the price of the others remaining stationery, it is 
cheaper or dearer than the others in proportion to the amount of 
the rise and fall. Thus, if pork falls to $8 there is a saving of $2 
per 100 lbs. in purchasing this meat in preference to the others. 
There is the widest possible disagreement among men who have 
liad the best practical opportunities for forming a judgment on 
this question. I have conversed with more than an hundred 
wardens of prisons and keepers of alms-houses, and I have scarcely 
found two who agreed in their opinions. Some think there is no 
difference between them; others think pork is by far the most 
mutritive; others give the preference to beef; and others again to 
mutton. I have been told by some that 100 lbs. of pork would 
go as far as 150 lbs. of beef; while others have been quite as sure 
that 100 lbs. of beef are equivalent to 120 lbs. of pork; and 
others declare that 100 lbs. of beef are equivalent to 200 lbs. of 
mutton. Then again, sir, we do not know whether paupers may 
not be kept as well on a diet wholly vegetable. There are many 
pauper establishments in Europe where no animal food whatever 
is allowed. In Ireland there are not a dozen poor-houses where 
meat is given from one year's end to the other. If this would 
answer in our climate, the expenses of the poor-houses might be 
•diminished 50 per cent at once. We cannot tell whether meat is 
:most nutritive boiled, or roasted, or hashed, or made into soup. I 
' will give you the result of an experiment made to ascertain the 
^relative value of boiled and roasted potatoes, which will cast 
r more light on the importance of these inquiries than anything I 
• oouid say. 

No. 72.] 103 

The inspector of prisons in Scotland caused 40 men to be se- 
lected, as nearly equal to each other in size, health and strength, 
as possible. They were divided into two classes, 20 men in each. 
The dinner of one class consisted of 3 lbs. oi! roasted potatoes, and 
the dinner of the other consisted of 3 lbs. of boiled potatoes. The 
diet was the same in all other respects in both cases. At the end 
of the experiment, after two months' trial, it was found that all 
the prisoners on the boiled potato diet were in good health, and 
had gained on an average 4 lbs. each. One prisoner, only, had 
lost weight, amounting to 5 lbs 2 oz.; the greatest gain was 9 lbs. 
4 oz. On the roasted potato diet the men were in good health, 
but there had been an average loss of 1^ lbs. weight. The great- 
est loss was 10 lbs. You perceive, sir, how important these ques- 
tions are to the tax payers of the State. There are about 10,000 
paupers in our poor-houses, nearly 2,000 prisoners in the State 
prisons, and over 1 ,000 persons in our penitentiaries, making an 
aggregate of 13,000 persons who are fed at the expense of the 
State. Hence, if, in consequence of increased knowledge of the 
relative value of different kinds of food, and the most economical 
method of cooking, we could save a shilling a week, the annual 
saving would be over $85,000. It is, I think, clearly the duty of 
the State to institute experiments in our poor-houses and prisons. 
By so doing, it would not only effect a saving for itself, but its 
conclusions would be a great assistance to the poorer classes, and 
enable them to save a great deal by knowing what is really 

(No. 15. ) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 
State of JVew- York: 

Fourth. — No systematic action is had for making the labor of 
paupers profitable. This difficulty is felt throughout the United 
States, as will be seen by the following statement. Most of the 
figures I have taken from the books of the several institutions, 
and the remainder from authentic public documents. They refer 
to the year 1851. 

10 i [Senate 

Arerage annual 
earniDge cf pau- 

Alms Hoaae. pers, 1850. 

Philadelphia, $171 

Boston, 4 73 

Suffolk county. Mass, J 145 

Essex county, " • . . . » 4 53 

Middlesex, ^< , , , 3 70 

Wooster, ' « 6 20 

Hampshire, " 3 20 

Hampden, <• 2 90 

Franklin, « 7 90 

Berkshire, " 88 

Norfolk, « 5 09 

Bristol, « 4 35 

Plymouth, « 4 46 

Baltimore city, Maryland,. . , , • 10 18 

Providence, Rhode Island, 16 37 

Average of all the alms houses in New-York State,, . 3 15 

You perceive that the average annual earnings of each pauper 
in all the poor houses in the State of New-York was only $3.15, 
while the average annual earnings of each pauper in the Provi- 
dence alms house was $16.37. If our paupers had been as judi- 
ciously managed as were the Providence paupers, one hundred 
and eighteen thousand nine hundred and eighty dollars would 
have been saved to the tax payers of the State. At the time 
whe» Ais account of the average earnings of the Providence paupers 
pers was taken, there was 136 in the house, of these 14 were insane 
4 were too old for labor, 20 were sick and infirm, and 41 w^ere chil- 
dren, making a total of 84 non -workers, and 52 workers, or 61 per 
ct. of the first and 39 per ct. of the second. In 1852, 132,399 per- 
sons were relieved and supporti?d in this State. The returns only 
enable us to judge of the working abilities of 12659 93; of these 
599 were idiots, 238 were insane, 311 w^ere blind; 1,888 were 
lame, 15,535 were sick, 636 were decrepid, 2,699 too old to work 
13,203 children, 45,463 whose condition is not given. If we sup- 
pose half of these whose condition is not given are able to work, 
we have 67,353 who are able to work, and 59,640 who are unable 
to work, or 53 per cent able to work and 47 per cent unable to 

No. 72.] 


work. You see, therefore, that while we have 14 per cent more 
able bodied workers than thej have in Providence, their average 
earnings are very nearly five times greater than ours ! These 
facts tell their own story. In Providence the rule is that every 
one able to work must work. If they have no profitable employ- 
ment for them they set them at something which is not profitable, 
at all events they must be kept employed. During my last visit 
I saw a party of men carrying wood from one corner of the yard 
to another and piling it there, when it was all removed it was 
brought back again and piled in the old place; a rigid adherence 
to this rule relieves Providence of all lazy drones, such as infest 
our poor houses to a great degree. They are the last ones to 
honor Providence with their presence, or if they do go there for a 
few days, they speedily bid it an atfectionate adieu. Yet there is 
no poor house in the United States where the paupers are as 
luxuriously fed and as comfortably clothed as at Providence, with 
the exception of Newport, in the same State, and Philadelphia. 

The poor law commissioners have established it as an inflexible 
rule throughout England, Wales and Ireland, that no relief what- 
ever shall be given to any able bodied pauper without they per- 
form a given task of work. The benefit of this rule both to the 
pauper and the rate payer is established in these reports by the 
strongest facts and arguments; J will not make quotations, but I 
hope you will not fail to study these reports with care, I believe 
you will find them all in the room over the law library in the 
capitol at Albany, but if any are missing I shall be happy to sup- 
ply you with them from my own library on your application to 
»k. the editor of this paper. 

The reason of our ill success in making pauper labor remune- 
rative is plain enough, we have never tried to make it profitable. 
Some men have a special faculty for making men labor profitably, 
others have no such faculty, if we would have a reform in this 
respect, we must begin by selecting men to manage the poor 
houses who have this special faculty; he should receive a suffi- 
cient remuneration for his services, and feel secure that every 
change in politics should not dispossess him from his position. 
Then he could devote himself to the task with vigor and with 



hope, and we should soon see a change which would gladden the 
heart of the tax payer and the philanthropist. I have great con- 
fidence that our alms houses would then become very nearly self- 
supporting institutions. As the result of careful inquiry, I am of 
opinion that horticultural and agricultural labor are better adapt- 
ed for children than any other. For winter employment some 
trades easily learned may be followed. For children; knitting 
socks and mittens for the younger, and the making of children's 
shoes for the older, are employments as well adapted to their ca- 
pacities, and are as profitable as any that I have found. The 
boys at the Reform School, Boston, learn to make these shoes rea- 
dily in a fortnight, and they readily turn off ten pairs in a day. 
Seating cane chairs, making umbrella structures, covering trunks 
are also well adapted for children. For adults I recommend mat 
making from the husks of corn, straw hat making, spinning, knit- 
ting, stone breaking for McAdamised roads, and pounding bones 
for manure. Some of them discover an astonishing aptitude for 
cutting and carving; these might be profitably employed in mak- 
ing from bones, islet prickers, tooth picks, and similar articles, 
while others might cut childrens' toys out of wood, make pill 
boxes, match boxes, horse and fish nets, and other similar articles. 
In short sir, there is no want of profitable employment, nothing 
is wanted but the yight kind of men to set them about it, and to 
keep them, at it. Truly yours, 


(No. 16.) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 
State of Mew York. 

Fifth — The children in the schools of our alms houses are very 

I have already sppken of this matter while considering 
the causes of the increase of pauperism, which I have already 
proved to exist, but I cannot pass over it without an allusion 
while discussing the abuses which exist in the management of 
our county poor houses. I beg to refer you to the statements 

No. 72.] 107 

made in my ninth letter, and that you will re-peruse them care- 
fully. When you have done so I think you will not accuse me 
of speaking at randon when I pronounce our system, or rather 
no system of pauper education a disgrace to the State, and a still 
greater disgrace to those who are entrusted with its management. 
This subject has a double claim to your attention. It comes with- 
in your care as Superintendent of Common Schools as well as Se- 
cretary of State, and I shall therefore feel greatly disappointed if 
you do not adopt early and vigorous measures for its improve- 

Sixth— The hospital department of our poor houses is, in gene- 
ral, shamefully managed. 

The general plan is for the superintendents to contract with 
some country doctor to attend the poor house for a small compen- 
sation, and one of his students generally does the work, in which 
e tries divers experiments, no doubt highly conducive to his own 
progress in science, but of more questionable advantage to the 
health and comfort of the patients. The amount paid for medi- 
cine and medical attendance last year was $13,275.20, being an 
average of $255 for each county, and includes not only the ex- 
pense of the poor house hospital, but the medical attendance and 
medicine for the out-door poor. After this statement of niggard- 
liness in dealing with physicians, you will be the less surprised 
when I assure you that 30 per cent. — nearly one-third of the in- 
mates of our poor-houses — die annually. The exact statement for 
the year 1852 is as follows :— Average number in all the poor- 
houses of this State during the year, 11,603. The number of 
deaths was 2,967, or nearly 26 per cent. As a point of compari- 
son with other institutions, let me assure you that the mortality 
of all the hospitals in the city of Paris is only 10 per cent on an 
average of 10 years. And the percentage, be it carefully remem- 
bered, is founded wholly on sick persons coming into them, 
while the percentage on our alms houses abov^e given is founded 
on the sick and well together. If the calculation was based on 
the same principles as in the Paris hospitals the average would be 
at least 40 per cent. In other wordi the chances of mortality 
are four times greater in our poor-houses than in the Paris hospi- 


I Senate 

tals. This, Mr. Secretary, is a burning shame and a withering 
disgrace. It would confer immortal glory on you if you should 
succeed in wiping it out. There are scarcely any of the poor 
houses provided with surgical instruments, or even the most com- 
mon hospital apparatus, such as injection syringes, bed pans, sto- 
mach pumps, &c. In some cases the physician lives three or four 
miles from the poor-house, and in case of severe wounds the pa- 
tient might die before the doctor got there and had collected the 
necessary instruments and apparatus. 

Seventh — There is no classification in our poor-houses. 

The poor of all classes and colors, all ages and habits, partake 
of a common fare, a common table, and a common dormitory. 
The poor widow who has occupied a respectable position in so- 
ciety, and who has been accustomed to the decencies and ameni- 
ties of polished, intelligent and christian society, but in conse- 
quence of pecuniary misfortunes in her declining years, is com- 
pelled to resort to the poor house, finds herself seated at the table 
with a negro wench on one side of her and a filthy prostitute on 
the other. She sleeps in the same room with the degraded and 
the outcast, and is compelled the whole day to associate on equal 
terras, and to listen to the obscene and disgusting languarge of 
creatures who are utterly revolting to her feelings. Such a wo- 
man undergoes a daily martyrdom. To call such relief a public 
charity is a misnomer and a satire. It would be more charitable 
(were It not contrary to the divine law) to shut them in a close 
room in which several pans of charcoal were burning. The fare 
and the accommodations which prove so revolting to this class is 
a perfect luxury to another. Many of the inmates never lived 
so well in their lives, and never enjoyed half the conveniences 
and luxuries that are afforded them in the poor houses of New- 
York. Paupers ought to be elassiiied, and the several classes 
kept strictly separate. No tax-payer would object to the comfor- 
table support of the unfortunate a ad virtuous poor, while all 
would protest against offering inducements to the lazy, idle and 
vicious to throng our poor houses by giving them comforts supe- 
rior to what they have ever enjoyed before. 

No. 72.] 


Eighth — I have already alluded to the insane poor. I have 
only to add that tlie treatment of this class in some of our poor 
houses is well calculated to call forth all the indignant eloquence 
of Miss Dix. I cannot extend these letters by describiog scenes 
of horror among the insane in our county poor houses, that I my- 
self have witnessed. But I may remark that it is not more than 
six years since in the poor house of Columbia county, the insane 
slept in a cellar where the green mould covered the walls. Their 
beds were rougli boxes of filthy straw, and they were not allowed 
bed-clothing lest they should tear it. Things are better now, but 
in all our poor-houses, the besom of reform finds wide scope for 
its actiun. 

(No. 17.) 

To the Hon. Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 
State of Jfew- York : 

My letters have swelled to such an unexpected length that I 

dare not trespass on your patience and the patience of my readers 

with any farther detailed statements of the abuses existing in the * 

administration of our poor laws. I therefore waive any further 

exposition of these abuses, and proceed to explain the course that 

I deem most proper to adopt, in order to provide a remedy for 


Before doing so, however, I deem it advisable to call your at- 
tention to a few general principles which are proper to be con- 
sidered, and which will cast much light upon our pathway. 

I have somewhere seen a classification of paupers in the follow- 
ing terms : " The Godly poor, the devilish poor, and the poor 
devils." I do not admire its irreverence and its flippancy; but 
it must nevertheless be confessed, that it gives a more graphic 
idea of the actual classes existing among the poor in fewer words 
than any form of expression I have ever met with. It does not 
include all who receive relief from the public purse, but it does 
the great mass. It is the general rule, but like all other general 
rules, it pre-supposes exceptions. 

There is but one feeling in the community in relation to the 
Godly poor. Professing christians look on them as a legacy of 



their crucified and risen Lord, and rejoice to testify their sense of 
gratitude and love to him for the inestimable benefits which he 
has conferred upon them by his sulfering and death, by contribut- 
ing of their substance to the necessities of those who are their 
fellow heirs of the same faith, and fellow partakers in the same 
precious promises. Nor is this feeling confined to professing 
christians alone. Those who are most careless of the claims of 
religion, and those who are even most hostile to the christian 
faith, concur in their willingness and even desire, that this class 
should be comfortably provided for, that their temporal necessities 
should be liberally supplied, and that their feelings should be 
spared every unnecessary wound. Their uncomplaining meek- 
ness, their reverend demeanor, and their deep and affectionate 
gratitude for kindness rendered to them, overcome the most sel- 
fish hearts with pnty, and dispose the most mercenary to contri- 
bute to the alleviation of their sufferings. Were there no other 
classes among the poor of the land, there would be no necessity 
for governmental interference, or for any provisions for compul- 
sory relief. The christian and philanthropic feelings of the com- 
munity would lead to an abundant supply of all their wants. 

The " devilish poor" form a most unlovable class. A portion of 
them are most disgusting hypocrites 3 they have words of godli- 
ness on their lips, but malice and all evil in their heart. They 
lie, cheat, and swindle at every opportunity. They are lazy, in- 
temperate, and vicious. There is no strong anxiety on the part 
of the community to pamper the appetites of the " devilish poor," 
nor no anxious solicitude about the softness of their beds, or the 
fineness of their linen. It must be confessed that such anxiety 
and solicitude, if it existed, were misplaced. Such as these de- 
serve no sympathy or extra care; if it were extended to them, it 
would offer a premium to idleness, and discourage those who are 
industriously supporting their families by dint of slightly recom- 
pensed toil. But we must be just, even to the " devilish poor." 
They are generally the offspring of idle and dissolute parents — 
they were never trained to habits of order, industry, or thrift — 
they never saw the interior of a church or school — never listened 
to the voice of kindness or affection — nor never witnessed self- 
denial or struggling against temptation in any of their associates. 

No. 72.] 


How can they be expected to be better than tliey are when we 
remember the disastrous influences to which they have been ex- 
posed from infancy 1 

The "poor devils" are not generally disliked; they are good 
natured, careless, and amusing. They lish and shoot; are always 
on hand on all occasions when a crowd assembles; they are 
knowing men at horse-races, are the most delighted spectators at 
general trainings, are the most noisy of patriots at elections, are 
far more faithful in their attendance at bar-rooms than at church, 
are far more familiar with cards and dominoes than with their 
bibles. When they go to the poor house, few begrudge them 
* their support; most tax-payers feel a sort of pleasure and com- 
placency that such a place is provided for them where they may 
whistle and sing, and tinally sink into their graves without suf- 
fering the pangs of hunger and want. Yet this class, in general, 
deserves less pity than the " devilish poor." They have mostly 
been better educated, and entered upon life better fitted to grap- 
ple with its " infinite toil and endeavor." They have never de- 
liberately dedicated themselves to idleness. Their choice be- 
tween industry and shiftlessuess has been more deliberate. I 
have noticed these three classes for the purpose of calling your 
attention to an attribute common to them all. It is a want of 
something, which the masses speak of as " having no faculty." 
Many of them are willing to work, but have not brains enough to 
make their work remunerative. Like Mr. Macawber, they are 
always waiting for " something to " tm-n up." They have no 
forethought, hence what they have to sell is sold in the cheapest 
market and what they buy is always purchased in the dearest. 
Yours truly, FRANKLIN. 

( No. 18. ) 

To the Hon, Eli^^s W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the State 

of J^eW'York: 

III. I now proceed to speak of some of the measures, which in 
my opinion would tend to diminish the evils complained of. 

First. — We have seen that the most of the evils complained of 
have arisen either (a) from a want of proper powers conferred on 



poor law officers, (6) from mal-admiuistration of those powers, (c) 
from ignorance of the true principles on which their powers should 
be exercised, and which ignorance arises, not from negligence on 
their part, but from neglect of the State to investigate and ascer- 
tain the facts necessary to be known, (d) from the want of an 
intelligent central supervision, (c) from the want of a uniform and 
reliable system of accounts, (/) by frequent changes of officers, 
by which the whole body of poor law officers are continually 
learning their busin^ess, and as soon as it is learned, they are dis- 
charged and others taken as apprentices. What we want then is, 
to frame a body of poor law, whicli shall obviate these and all 
other difficulties, and introduce such other positive improvements 
as shall provide for the comfortable maintenance of the virtuous 
and unfortunate poor — for the employment of the idle, and lazy, 
and shiftless poor — for the rapid and efficient cure of the sick and 
disabled poor— for the education and industrious training of poor 
children, and for aiding and encouraging industry among the poor, 
who are not as yet the subjects of public charity. In other words, 
we wish the Government to imitate the dealings of Divine Provi- 
dence, and act as its agent in relation to the poor of the land. — 
To accomplish this purpose a uniform, coherent, and intelligible 
system must be devised. It must be a whole — complete in all its 
parts—each member working in entire harmony with all the 
others, to produce a definite and foreseen result. No patching of 
our present poor laws will answer this purpose. You must per- 
ceive we must begin at the beginning, and with a comprehensive 
and intelligent grasp of all the details of the question, enact a 
complete code which shall accomplish the desired result. For 
this purpose my first recommendation is, that the Legislature shall 
appoint a commission of three persons, whose duty it diall be to 
visit all the poor houses in the State, carefully examine the con- 
dition of each, the number and condition of the paupers, the food 
and diet given them, the condition of the insane, the education of 
the children, the mode of keeping accounts, and in short all the 
details of their management. They shall also investigate, as far 
as they may be able, the causes of pauperism, and the best mode of 
repressing it. They should also be required to visit and examine 
some of the best institutions for the relief of the poor in the large 

No. 72.] 


cities of the northern States, and make a diligent examination of 
the poor laws of all the States. In addition to this they should 
procure from the consuls of the United States, through the Secre- 
tary of the U. S., such information in relation to the poor laws of 
the places where they reside, and the, operation of such laws in 
diminishing pauperism, as it may be in their power to furnish. 
After procuring this information they should then proceed to 
prepare a code of poor laws for this State, which should be best 
adapted in their judgment to accomplish the end in view. If the 
expense of three commissioners should be objected to, I should be 
perfectly willing to confine it to one, provided that one was John 
C Spencer. I know of no other single man in the State who I 
consider fully competent to perform the task in a manner per- 
fectly satisfactory. 

Second — In case such a commission is appointed, I would re- 
commend for their consideration the election of a central poor 
board, to be composed of a State Superintendent of the poor, to be 
elected by the county superintendents of the poor — this officer in 
conjunction with the Secretary of State and the State Engineer to 
form the poor law board. All rules and regulations adopted by 
the county superintendents for the government of the county poor 
houses, should be submitted to them for examination and ap- 
proval. This board should devise a uniform system of keeping 
the accounts of poor houses, and have power to change them from 
time to time. They should also prescribe the form of the annual 
reports of the county superintendents. No county should here- 
after build a county house, or make any repairs beyond 

dollaf s, without obtaining the approval of the central board of the 
plan for such building or repairs. The board should acquaint 
themselves with the best plans for building such houses, and 
should be required to furnish plans on application of the county 

(No. 19.) 

To Elias W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State elect, of the State 
of Jfew- York : 

This Central Board, the organization of which I recommended 
in my last letter, should provide for a regular and thorough sys- 
[Senate, No. 72.] 8 



tern of experiments, to ascertain the best and most economical 
methods of feeding the poor ; this will include the relative and 
absolute values of different articles of diet, with respect to econo- 
my and healthful ness. The State Superintendent of the Poor 
should visit every poor house annually, and audit the accounts of 
the keeper and county superintendent. From this latter provi- 
sion I anticipate the most marked and valuable results. 

Third. — Six persons should be elected as county superintend- 
ents ot (he poor. The office of poor master should be abolished, 
and their duties devolved on the supervisors. The county su- 
perintendent should be invested with all the authority that the 
poor masters now possess. We have seen that many of the abuses 
now existing have their origin in the bad selection of men to fill 
the station of county superintendents, and that this mal-selection 
IS caused almost inevitably by the manner of their selection. 
Unless this is changed, we cannot hope for improvement. I have 
already discussed the evils of party sele<;tion for this office, in my 
13th letter, and shall add no more in this connection, other than 
to ask you to refresh your recollection by a re-perusal of that let- 
ter. I propose that, in the first instance, each elector shall ballot 
for three persons to fill the office of county superintendents of 
the Poor, and that the six persons having the greatest number of 
votes shall be declared elected ; these six persons to divide them- 
selves into three classts, by lot, immediately after election; the 
first class to hold office for two years, the second for four, and the 
third for six. Thereafter, at the end of every second year, two 
persons to be chosen as above (only each elector will vote for one 
person, and the two having the greatest number of votes, to be 
elected, and to hold their office for six years.) Tnis plan is not 
inconsistent with existing analogies. The Governors of the Alms 
House in the city of New- York are now so elected, and the In- 
spectors of elections are also chosen in the same way. The alms- 
house department in New- York has worked admirably under this 
system ; a great saving in expense has accrued to the city, the 
prisoners and paupers are vastly better managed, discipline is 
maintained efficiently and without severity, and all the desirable 
objects of the establishment are now nearly accomplished. The 
constant changes in the heads of departments which formerly 

No. 72.] 115 

took place at every fluctuation of politics, prevented any interest 
being taken by the respective wardens, superintendents, and 
keepers, in the good management of their departments. It was 
the prevalent idea that as soon as they qualiJBied themselves for 
their offices, and got their affairs in good order, some one would 
step in and reap all the advantages of their labors. They therefore 
took no pains about the matter, enjoyed their salaries and perqui- 
sites, (which were the most precious morsels in the whole affair,) 
and left the public interests committed to their care to take care of 
themselves, or go without care. There is nothing of this kind 
now ; parties may fluctuate as they will, but no efficient and faith- 
ful officer is turned out of his place on account of his politics. 
Hence, under the intelligent supervision of the Ten Governors, 
each man labors to perfect the details of his department, in full 
confidence that he will receive full credit for all the improvements 
he may introduce, and all the efficiency he may manifest. They 
now have a motive to discharge their duties faithfully, and this 
motive is in general strong enough to secure their fidelity. 

Another part of the New -York system is well worthy to be in- 
corporated into the proposed general code. The Ten Governors 
only appoint the superintendents and clerks of the departments. 
The superintendents appoint all subordinate officers, and thus are 
enabled to secure their prompt obedience and faithful co-opera- 
tion. If anything goes wrong, the Governors look for redress 
solely to the superintendent, who is responsible for everything to 
them, as the inferior officers are responsible to him. This plan 
works exceedingly well in practice, and I would not hesitate for 
a moment to incorporate a provision into the proposed law, that 
every keeper of a county poor house should have the selection of all 
inferior employees required for the management of the institution. 
If commissioners are appointed by the State for a revision of the poor 
laws, I would strongly recommend to them a very minute study of 
the system pursued in the New- York Alms House department. 

Yours truly, 



I Sei^ate 

(No. 20.) 

To the Hon. Eli as W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 
State of JVew- Yoi'k: 

I must not forget to mention that my testimony to the excel- 
lence of the Ten Governors system refers to what it has been 
rather than to what it now is. There is nothing even now very 
reprehensible, but still there are evidences of deterioration from 
its unequalled excellence which I would wish to guard against in 
a general system for the State. They expend between $600,000 
and 1700,000 annually, and the aggregate amount of salaries paid 
to persons in their employment is between $60,000 and $70,000. 
This expenditure and patronage is attractive to many men who have 
not the proper qualifications for office, and hence they seek to obtain 
nominations from their respective parties, rather for the reputation 
it gives and the influence it confers than from an honest desire to 
labor for the advancement of the benevolent objects confided to 
the board. Experience shows that the class of men best adapted 
for these offices are men of W'ealth, who have retired from busi- 
ness. Their wealth places them above all desire to make money 
out of the office, either directly or indirectly. They have ac- 
quired in business a competent knowledge of human nature, they 
understand accounts, and are not easily mystified by false or er- 
roneous entries, and have reached an age when the violence of 
passion is stilled, and the reason and judgment are still in the 
meridian of their vigor. It is believed that there are enough of 
such men in every county of the State who would take a pride 
and a pleasure in discharging the duties of the office without any 
other remuneration than the payment of their actual travelling 
expenses. The amount paid to superintendents for their services 
in 1852 was $40,583. It is believed that $4,000 would pay all 
the necessary travelling expenses; there would therefore be saved 
about $36,000 annually. 

In order to secure the services of first rate men, I would nar- 
row the constituency by providing that no one should vote for 
superintendents who did not pay $1 or 2 to the supervisors of the 
town for the benefit of the poor— the supervisors to keep an ac- 
curate list of such payments and furnish copies thereof to the in- 

No. 72.] 117 

spectors of election. No one would contribute in this way who 
did not feel a real interest in the poor, and by so doing would 
furnish a substantial guarantee that he would carefully select 
those who were best fitted- for the station. You will probably 
think, sir, that this proposition is shockingly un-democratic Per- 
haps it is, but it will certainly prove very efficacious. Should it 
prove so, I, for one, shall be very willing to excuse its anti-demo- 
cratic tendencies. I would confer on these superintendents all 
the powers of the present superintendents except as herein 
otherwise provided, and also all the powers of the present poor- 
masters. They should meet once a month at the poor-house, as a 
board, and one of them should visit it for the purpose of inspec- 
tion twice in each week. At such visits he should see every 
pauper and every room, and write a summary account of his 
visit in a book to be kept for the purpose, noting every infraction 
of the rules, and any other impropriety which he may notice, and 
also all such orders as he may give for their correction, and sign 
such entry with his name and the date of his visit. This plan 
will secure thorough inspection, and what is almost equally im- 
portant, it will preserve the evidence of it. 

Fourth — A workhouse should be established in almost every 
county in the State. There may be some counties where this 
would be unnecessary, but the necessity in each county could be 
judged of by the codltiers during their visit to such county. The 
workhouse may be connected with the almshouse; if desirable it 
may be under the same roof, or it may be a separate establish- 
ment, located in a different town. Generally the poor-house 
should be located near the geographical centre of travel in the 
county, but a workhouse should evidently be located where the 
greatest amount of profitable employment can be obtained. 
Where these two conditions are united in any location there the 
two establishments may be united in one, and managed by the 
same oHicers. All sick, aged, decrepid persons, and all idio-s 
and lunatics, should be lodged in the almshouse proper. All 
other persons requiring aid should be sent to the workhouse, and 
compelled to labor ^t some profitable employment, if such could 
be procured ; but whether profitable or unprofitable, they should 
be compelled to labor to the utmost of their ability. 



( No. 21. ) 

The plan of making labor systematically compulsory on all 
paupers not of the class excepted in my last letter, may strike 
many humane persons as novo], and what is worse, as cruel. If 
I know my own heart I would revolt as quickly from any thing 
like unkludness and inhumanity towards the poorer classes as 
any living being, but I am persuaded from a most careful exam- 
ination of the operation of this principle at home and abroad, and 
from a knowledge of the habits and dispositions of the poor, that 
this measure is imperatively called for by the highest sanctions 
of humanity. It is a medicine, and like all other medicines it is 
nauseous to the taste but in the highest degree salutary in its ope- 
ration. This principle, in connexion with some others which I 
shall soon have the honor of laying before you, is in my opinion 
the only means of averting the terribly rapid rates of increase of 
pauperism which I have demonstrated to exist in my 3d, 4th and 
5th letters. In connection with this subject, I must beg you to 
re-peruse the 8th, 11th and 12th letters of this series. I am sen- 
sible that I have not done full justice to these subjects, a large 
stock of facts and observations in relation to them are yet un- 
touched, because I desired to keep these letters within reasonable 
limits, but I think from what has already been said, that from 
the suggestions which will naturally arise in your mind in re- 
flecting on it, you will be convinced that a measure of this kind, 
in connection with some improvement in our existing laws in re- 
lation to vagrancy and mendicity, are absoluttly called for by the 
exigency of the times. 

Fifth. It should be compulsory on the superintendents to send 
all paupers to the State Lunatic Asylum for two years if not sooner 
cured, as soon as they manifest unequivocal indications of insanity. 
This would be consistent with sound principles of economy. Hun- 
dreds v^f insane paupers are now taken care of at the public ex- 
pense during their whole lives, who might have now been earn- 
ing their own living and adding to the wealth of the community, 
if they had enjoyed an opportunity cf being cured while their 
disease was ciu'able. It appears from authentic statistics that 40 

No. 72.] 


per cent of all the patients received into the asylums are dis- 
charged cured. But of recent cases about 70 per cent are dis- 
charged cured. This large premium on early admissions demon- 
strates the economy and the necessity of the proposed law. It not 
unfrequently happens among the ignorant and especially among 
the Irish poor, that the removal of their insane friends to an asy- 
lum is strenuously resisted. In such cases if the superintendents 
are unable to accomplish the removal by persuasion they should 
be empowered to remove them forcibly, unless the parties enter 
into a bond with sufficient sureties to indemnify the county 
against all cost or charge on account of the insane person. For 
further details on this subject I refer you to my 10th letter. 

Sixth. The superintendents of the county poor should be charged 
with the oversight and assistance of the out-door poor, which may 
be afforded in various ways. They should be made a corporation 
for the purposes of this act and be authorised to sue and be sued, 
in the name of their chairman. They should be authorised and 
required to establish pauper savings banks in every county in 
which sums as small as twenty-five cents should be received on 
deposit, and interest allowed as soon as the deposite amounted to 
one dollar, say 2 per cent on $1,00 ; 3 per cent on all sums be- 
tween $1 ,00 and 3,00; 4 per cent on sums between $3,00 and $5,00 ; 
and 5 per cent on all sums over $5,00. This increased scale of in- 
terest in proportion to the amount of the deposite will be a pow- 
erful stimulus to efforts for accumulation. When a poor person 
has once accumulated five dollars and he knows that sum is con- 
stantly increasing without effort on his part a great object has 
been effected. You can have no idea how much the existence of 
pauperism depends on want of forecast^ unless you have mingled 
much among the poor, seen their habits, and listened to their ha- 
bitual conversation. They literally "take no thought for the 
morrow." If they have enough to support them a week, they will 
recklessly spend it all on the pleasures of to-day without caring 
or thinking where the provision for to-morrow is to come from, 
and those who live in luxury during summer when their earnings 
are ample, suffer all the privations of penury during the winter, 
when they might have lived comfortably during the entire year 


I Senate 

if they had exercised the j^lightest prudence or economy. They 
think there is a sort of mora] impossibility, for them to get ahead 
in the workl, and that there is a sort of fatality that keeps them 
poor, they therefore are determined to get all the good they can 
out of their earnings while they have them, without troubling 
themselves about the future. I believe sir that the establishment 
of saving banks as proposed, will do more to break up this feel- 
ing, than any other measure that can be adopted. 

Yours truly, 


(No. 22.) 

To the Han. Eli as W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the 
State of JSTeW' York. 

Seventh — With a view to the assistance and encouragement of 
the poor, and to cultivate a disposition to economise and to pro- 
vide for the future, the superintendents should be required to 
purchase large quantities of fuel and salt meat at such times as 
they are at minimum prices, and dispose of those articles at prime 
cost during the winter. This measure should be conducted with 
great prudence lest the regular trader should be injuriously in- 
terfered with, or the poor should themselves attempt to make a 
profit, but I am confident rules can be framed which will avoid 
all abuses if the right men are chosen for superintendents. 

Eighth — I have already remarked that a certain class of the 
poor are very willing to work if they could obtain it, but they 
have no faculty for procuring it ; they seem to be utterly incapa- 
ble of setting themselves to work. There would be little diffi- 
culty in making eflectual provisions for this want of the poor, if 
the town clerks of each town were required to keep a register in 
which the name of every person wanting work should be enrolled, 
and the kind of work he or she was able to do. This book sh >uld 
be at all times open for the inspection of persons wanting to em- 
ploy hands. Every Monday morning a transcript of such regis- 
ter should be forwarded to the office of the county clerk, who 
should be required to enter them all in a book to be provided by 

No. 72. 1 


him for the purpose. Thus, any employer, by going to the 
county clerk's office, could see at a glance the residence and qua- 
lifications of every laborer in the county. At a small expense 
a very great benefit would be conferred on both the employers 
and the laborers. This system of registry to be under the inspec- 
tion and direction of the county superintendent of the poor. 

J{inth — There are many voluntary organizations in each county 
for the benefit of the poor — there are Dorcas societies, soup so- 
cieties, orphan societies, &c. It should be the duty of superin- 
tendents to put themselves in communication with these associa- 
tions, and by advice, assistance and co-operation, endeavor to in- 
crease the sphere of their usefulness. It is believed that much 
good might be thus effected by procuring more unity of effort on 
the part of those citizens who esteem it their pleasure and their 
duty to minister to the wants of the poor. The superintendents 
from their central position would be better informed of the points 
where labor and assistance was most needed, and would there- 
fore be enabled to direct every kind of talent which might bo 
voluntarily offered to the sphere of its most useful employment. 

TeTz^^— Efficient rules should be adopted to guard against 
abuses in the apprenticeship of pauper children. Full enquiries 
should be made as to the character of the proposed master, and 
the answer shoald be made a matter of record. The parents or 
friends of the apprentice should be cited to attend, and their ob- 
jections, if any, should be recorded and carefully weighed. The 
master should not be allowed to remove the apprentice from the 
town where he was originally bound without the consent in writ- 
ing of the superintendents. The indentures should fully declare 
the duties of the master and provide for a proper amount of 
schooling and the provision of the necessary school books. A 
list of pauper apprentices in each town should be furnished on 
on the 1st day of October in each year to the town superinten- 
tendent of common schools of such town, by the superintendents 
of the poor. It should be the duty of the town superintendents 
annually to make a special report to the State superintendent of 
common schools, as to the manner in which the stipulations with 
regard to education in the indentures have been complied 



with. This plan would, I think, effectually obviate the difficul- 
ties stated in my ninth letter, and would greatly tend to elevate 
the character of the State and the condition of the poor. 

Eleventh — The schools in our county houses should be made 
district schools. No teacher should be emplo3^ed who has not re- 
ceived a full certificate from the town superintendent, and such 
schools should be allowed to participate in the public money, so 
far, at least, as to receive its distributive share of library money. 
The superintendents should be required to furnish them with sui- 
table seats, desks, books, stationery and apparatus. If these 
provisions are carried out in good faith a burning disgrace will 
be removed from the character of our State, and I am confident 
it will dry up a very considerable tributary to the broad stream 
of pauperism. 

( No. 23. ) 

Twelfth — The superintendents should be required to classify 
the poor according to their previous standing in life, their moral 
character and personal habits, so that the virtuous, respectable, 
and unfortunate poor should not be brought into revolting con- 
tact with the degraded and vicious outcasts of society. This class 
should be better fed and more comfortably accommodated than 
the other. 

Thirteenth — In Maryland the superintendents are required to 
open ail account with each pauper, debiting them with food and 
clothing, and crediting them with the value of their services ; 
until the account is made to balance, the superintendent may 
forcibly detain them in the poor house. It would be well to con- 
sider whether such a provision would not be useful here. I am 
not prepared to recommend it unequivocally, but I think the idea 
worthy of full consideration. 

Fvurteenth—ThQ custody of the prisoners in the county jail 
should be taken from the sheriff and transferred, together with 
the appointment of the jailor and the police of the jail, to the 
county superintendents of the poor. I wiil not now trouble you 

No. 72.] 123 

with the reasons for this change, because the statement of them 
would swell these letters too much. I am prepared, however, to 
state them at length, if you or the codifiers should desire them. 

Fifteenth — The superintendents should be the board of health 
for the county, and as such they should be required to watch 
over the public health, to remove nuisances, to prevent the spread 
of contagious diseases and to pi-ovide a general and gratuitous 
plan for universal vaccination. 

Finally — You will observe that the proposed plan embraces 
provisions : 

For an efficient central inspection of the allairs of the poor. 

For an improvement in the science of pauper management. 

For securing a higher class of officers in the counties. 

For elevating the character and assisting the out-door poor. 

For the education of pauper children. 

For uniting legal and voluntary aid to poor persons. 

For an improved mode of apprenticeship. 

For making the poor industrious, and diminishing the expenses 
of their support in work-housec. 

For making more comfortable provisions for the virtuous and 
unfortunate, and a better discipline for the idle and vicious. 

Such as it is, all the provisions of the plan are now before you. 
If I have succeeded in convincing you that real evils exist which 
may be cured by legislative interference, I sincerely hope you 
will use your great and acknowledged influence with the Legisla- 
lature to induce them to appoint a commission to effect a thorough 
revision of the poor laws. Should such a commission be ap- 
pointed, it will afford me great pleasure to supply them with 
many details which have been omitted in these letters for the 
sake of brevity. 

I am prepared, should the commissioners desire it, to give them 
a plan for the organization of work-house?, embracing the persons 



to be received into it, the time they should be kept in it, the em- 
ployment to be pul-sued, the rules for its discipline, the plan for 
its erection, and all other necessary details tor its management, 
and also the facts and observations on which the plan is founded. 

My work is now finished, and cordially commending the views 
which are presented in it to your serious and candid considera- 
tion, I remain truly yours, 


SiippkmeRiary Letter (o the Secretary of State. 

To Hon. Eli AS W. Leavenworth, Secretary of State of the State 
o/* J^ew- York: 

I cannot doubt that you have read the account of the horrid 
scenes that have recently occurred at the BujB[*alo Poor House. 
Within twenty-tour hours, fifteen insane and seven sane persons 
in that establishment, passed out of time into eternity. They 
were not slaughtered by the knife, by the axe, or the revolver, 
but they were not the less really nor the less wickedly slaughter- 
ed, by famine, by tilth, and by cruel neglect. Have you not felt 
a sense of shame, of sorrow, of unutterable loathing, that such 
things should occur amid the boasted civilization of the nineteenth 
century, here in the very midst of us, in the western metropolis 
of the Empire State ] Have you not remembered the declaration 
of our Lord: "The poor ye have always with you V Have 
you experienced no dread of a visible manifestation of His wrath, 
who hath said, "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his 
Maker ; '* and " For the oppression of the poor and the sighing of 
the needy, now Vv^ill I arise, saith the Lord.'' 

With me, you have desired to strike off the shackles of the 
slave; like me, you have mourned over those detestable cruelties 
incident to slavery, which have recently been made patent to the 
whole world, through the agency of " Uncle Tom," and have ar- 
gued that such cruelty cou](ronly exist in an atmosphere of slav- 
ery. We have tried to show the evil of slavery by its reflex in- 
fluence, in debasing the moral feelings of the masters. Are you 
not fearful that when this afiair reaches the South the slavehold- 

No. 72.] 


ers will give us back a taste of our own argument, and tell us 
that there is a wider scope for the exercise of their philanthropy 
at the north, than there i& for ours among the slaves of the south. 

You cannot say, sir, you were not forewarned of the sad state of 
our poor houses. It is true that in my letters last winter I did 
not seek to excite your indignation against the administrators, 
nor your sympathies for the sufferings of the poor ; but you will 
find, on reference to the sixteenth letter, that the existence of 
such abuses is clearly indicated, and I now add that I had the Buf- 
falo poor house in my mind while writing it, and there are many 
others in the State that stand equally in need of reform. Had 
you presented the facts contained in my letters of last winter to 
the Legislature, under your official sanction, (there are none 
which you might not easily verify,) and recommended a visitation 
of our poor houses by commissioners authorised to send for per- 
sons and papers, there cannot be a shadow of doubt that it would 
have received the sanction of that body. Such a visitation would 
have prevented the horrid atrocities that have been enacted at 
Buffalo, and at other places which have not yet been brought to 
light. You would have been the honored instrument of saving 
much human life, and much disgrace to our State, aud procured 
a fund of valuable information, on which the ensuing Legislature 
might act, for the suppression of these and still greater evils for 
the future. Depend upon it, sir, something must be done soon to 
cure the multifold evils of our poor laws. Were the people in- 
formed of half the wastefulness, the brutality, and the neglect, 
which flows from them, they would rise en masse and insist on 
their abrogation, I did hope, sir, that you would have taken the 
lead in this great work ; and although, from past neglect, these 
hopes are diminished, I can still hardly bring myself to believe 
that you will finally quit oflice without one effort to confer honor 
on yourself, and advantage on the State, by ameliorating what 
Samuel Young once said were emphatically the " Poor Laws of 
our statute book. 

Yours truly,